Two South Wales police officers have been convicted of theft after being caught in a joint sting operation with Greater Manchester Police stealing £250…and two disposable pens.
Detective Sergeant Stephen Phillips and Detective Constable Jason Evans believed they were carrying out a raid in response to a series of robberies in Manchester.
Unbeknown to the pair, the targeted Neath house was rigged with secret police cameras.
During the fake raid, Phillips, 45, stole £250 in cash whilst Evans, 44, took two disposable pens, Cardiff Magistrates’ Court heard.
According to police sources, the duo were targeted in response to ongoing concerns of alleged misconduct.
“The pair were found out when South Wales Police staged a fake undercover operation which the defendants thought was real,” prosecutor David Roberts said.
In an interview at Cardiff Bay Police Station, Phillips admitted to taking the money, claiming he was going to hand it over to Tracy Marshall because he pitied her and thought that by giving her the cash she could be ‘recruited’ as a police informant.
When first quizzed, Evans denied taking anything from the house, but later cracked and said: “I am sorry. I have taken two pens. I did not have any at the time.”
On March 4, officers set up a fake search operation at a house in Edith Mills Close, Neath.
Prosecutor Mr Roberts told the court the property had been fitted with ‘covert visual and audio’ and items were placed by police in the house.
Items included around £21,000 in cash, watches, an iPhone and even Viagra.
“All the bank notes had been marked and their serial numbers recorded and photographed.” added Mr Roberts.
Phillips and Evans –who have served in the force for 26 and 19 years’ service respectively – arrived at the address after being ordered to carry out a search operation on behalf of Greater Manchester Police to uncover evidence relating to a series of robberies in the North West of England.
Less than 15 minutes after arriving, Phillips discovered £240 inside a coat before placing it in his trouser pocket. He found an additional £10 in a bedside table.
Describing the CCTV footage of their search, Mr Roberts said: “He looked to see if a colleague was watching him and then appeared to put something in his right trouser pocket.”
After exchanging the contents of the ‘raid’ with Greater Manchester Police, officers noticed that £250 was missing and informed their counterparts in south Wales.
Phillips and Evans were stopped by a marked police car at 1am on the M4 motorway and arrested by a member of the force’s professional standards department.
Officers found £190 in Phillips’ wallet. £60 in marked notes was recovered from a gambling machine from Strensham services, the court was told.
Evans, from Cilfrew, and Phillips, from Skewen, both admitted one charge of theft each and will be sentenced later this month.
The court was told both officers are currently suspended from duties pending internal disciplinary proceedings.
District Judge Bodfan Jenkins warned both defendants that all options remain open, including custody.
Judge Jenkins said: “This is a gross breach of trust in relation to conduct members expect from the police force.
“There can be few examples of a graver breach of trust, whatever the value of the items”.
Judge Jenkins said the fact the pens were worth next to nothing did not matter, adding: “It is not the value that is of concern; it is the breach of trust”.
Speaking of the incident, Assistant Chief Constable Richard Lewis, said: “Police officers take a vow to serve the public and uphold the law with fairness, integrity and impartiality.
“Any who fall short of those standards or who abuse their position, will face disciplinary action, the prospect of criminal prosecution and dismissal.
“As soon as the officers were suspected of acting improperly, an investigation, supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, was launched which culminated in the dedicated integrity test and their subsequent arrest and suspension.
“I want to reassure the public that we take this type of behaviour very seriously and continue to work hard to root out any corrupt officers and staff.”