Former PCSO and cadet leader fined after searching cadets’ records

A former Essex Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) and volunteer police cadet leader who looked up details of teenage cadets on police systems has been convicted in court following an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

Tristan Adams, aged 41, pleaded guilty at Basildon Crown Court yesterday (January 17) to unlawfully obtaining data, under the Data Protection Act 2018. He was handed a £1000 fine and ordered to repay court costs.

Former PCSO Adams, who resigned from Essex Police in December 2021, began volunteering as a police cadet leader in March 2019.

In May 2019, Adams accessed a police computer system to view the records of two police cadets. Both were under 18 years at the time. He also viewed police investigation files relating to one, despite having no legitimate policing purpose for carrying out any of these searches.

An investigation began following a mandatory conduct referral from Essex Police in December 2019, which related to allegations of inappropriate behaviour by the PCSO to a volunteer cadet and searching cadets’ records on a police system.

At the conclusion of the investigation in February 2021 a file of evidence was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service who authorised charges under the Data Protection Act 2018 and Computer Misuse Act 1990. The second charge relating to computer misuse will lie on file.

IOPC regional director Mel Palmer said: “All police staff are aware that accessing a person’s record on police systems must only be done when there is a legitimate purpose and that staff who misuse these systems risk being prosecuted.

“Despite this, former PCSO Adams viewed person records for two young cadets, including a home address and police investigations linked to both children.

“His unlawful actions have now resulted in a criminal conviction and should send a message to all police staff that there are serious consequences for those who misuse police systems.”

It was also decided that the PCSO should face a gross misconduct hearing for potential breaches of the police standards of professional behaviour.

This hearing was arranged by the force in February 2022 and Adams was found guilty of gross misconduct for misusing police systems to look up cadet members without a policing purpose and for his inappropriate behaviour towards one of the cadets, which included a large number of messages sent to the child from his personal mobile number.

A disciplinary panel found he would have been dismissed without notice had he not already resigned. He has also been placed on the police barred list.