South Yorkshire Police helicopter crew member ‘was not aware’ aircraft was filming woman sunbathing naked
A former police officer who was on board the South Yorkshire Police helicopter on the day it filmed a woman sunbathing naked has claimed he was unaware of what was being recorded.
Lee Walls, who retired from the force in January after around 20 years' service with the air unit, said he would often turn his screen off in the aircraft as he suffered with migraines and headaches.
Speaking at a police misconduct hearing into his and former college PC Matthew Lucas’ behaviour he said he was not aware the woman was the target of recording during a flight he was on on August 23, 2007.
Questioning him, his solicitor Jason Pitter QC, said: "Did you know at the time [the woman] was the target being recorded?"
He replied: "No."
Mr Pitter also asked: "Before this investigation were you aware of that footage being recorded?" to which Walls also replied: "No."
Walls told the hearing he had a history of suffering with migraines and headaches and took around 'eight or nine' periods of time off work because of the condition.
He said he would often turn his screen off once police operational work was complete.
He said: "Since about 14 I have suffered with migraine headaches and one of the triggers is flashing images and that could cause that effect to happen which is why I did use to, when we went on a job, turn my screen off."
Walls said that on the day the crew had just dealt with an incident on the A1(M) near Doncaster and he thought the aircraft was heading back to base.
Asked what he would have been doing at the time, he added: "I would be making some notes on my pad. I would be tidying up the aircraft and I would be talking on the radio to see if there was anything else happening and a write-off for the job that we had just been on."
The former officer said his screen would have been turned off if it was indicated that he was heading back to base.
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He added the journey, which the aircraft took, would be the 'general route' back to the helicopter's base at Sheffield Airport.
Walls said that had he been aware that the woman was the subject of the recording, he would have ‘challenged’ the observer filming the footage, ‘informed the pilot to move the aircraft’, and ‘stopped the recording’.
He added he felt ‘quite ashamed’ that the helicopter had been used as it had.
He said: “It’s not what I joined the police to do and it certainly wasn’t what I joined the air unit to do.
“I loved my job, I loved every second of it and this has spoiled it.”
He added: “It’s spoiled it because it was taken away from me because of this.”
Mr Pitter had earlier made a submission that there was insufficient evidence for the panel to ‘properly conclude’ his case but it was dismissed.
Walls and serving police officer PC Matthew Lucas face a number of allegations that their conduct was a breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour.
It is further alleged that they failed to report the misuse of the force helicopter and gave untruthful accounts when interviewed.
The hearing continues.