South Yorkshire Police officer sacked after bugging former wife’s home and listening in to her conversations on more than 1,300 occasions

A South Yorkshire Police officer who used covert devices to listen in on his former wife's conversations more than 1,300 times after they broke up has been sacked.

Tuesday, 19th March 2019, 12:03 pm

PC Christopher Birkett bought the woman an iPhone docking station, baby monitor and USB charger ‘as a gift’ following the break-up of their marriage in March 2017.

A police misconduct hearing heard how the woman moved into a rented property, with the couple's three children, but that all three appliances had listening devices.

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Oliva Checa-Dover, acting on behalf of South Yorkshire Police, said he listened in to her conversations a total of 1,333 times, including 52 when he was on duty as an officer, between March 2017 and August 2017.

She said the woman only discovered the items were bugged 'by accident' when she looked at Birkett's Amazon account.

Ms Checa-Dover said: "That discovery made her feel physically sick."

Referring to Birkett’s former wife’s victim impact statement, Ms Checa-Dover said: “It affected her ability to feel safe and comfortable in that house – so much so that she moved and became obsessed with checking things and spent hours making sure items were not one of those devices.”

She said the 'only appropriate outcome' was dismissal without notice as Birkett’s actions were an invasion of the woman’s privacy and had the 'clear potential' to affect public confidence in South Yorkshire Police.

In mitigation, Sgt Russ Higham, representing Birkett, read out a number of statements from the officer's colleagues who described him as 'outstanding', 'enthusiastic' and 'competent’.

Referring to the time period in which Birkett listened in on the conversations, in a statement, his friend James Bennett, who was the best man at the former officer’s wedding, said: "It was clear that he was depressed with life and he desperately sought the answers as to why his life had been turned upside down."

Sgt Higham also pointed out that Birkett, who worked at Rossignton and Doncaster police stations among others, had admitted gross misconduct at the beginning of the hearing.

But independent chairman Simon Mallett dismissed him from the force without notice.