Police officer who stole £65 from dead man's wallet jailed for cover-up

A serving police officer who stole £65 from a dead man's wallet has been jailed for 15 months for trying to cover up the theft.

Paul Wallace, 47, a police constable with Humberside Police, stole the money after being given the role of liaison officer to the family of the man, who had died suddenly in June 2015.

Wallace amended his police pocket notebook

Wallace amended his police pocket notebook

He later tried to cover up the theft by planting £65 in the police property store, amending his pocket notebook and duping another officer to find the money after a complaint was made by the deceased man's partner.

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Wallace, of Willowdale, Hull, pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice at an earlier hearing and was sentenced at Grimsby Crown Court.

Jonathan Sandiford, prosecuting, told the court that Wallace attended the sudden accidental death of Paul Rutter in Leconfield, East Yorkshire, in June 2015 and was assigned as family liaison officer.

He helped other officers search the property and took possession of a number of items, including Mr Rutter's brown wallet, containing £65, which was later logged and placed in the property store at Clough Road police station in a numbered evidence bag.

In the days following Mr Rutter's death, Wallace returned the wallet to his partner, who complained to the police professional standards branch when she found it empty.

The next month, Wallace was informed by email that a complaint had been made and withdrew £50 from a cash machine near the police station within half an hour of reading the message.

He then placed the cash into an evidence bag, marked with the same exhibit number as the wallet, and put the bag into the property store before calling another officer to help him search for the missing money, which was found among other evidence bags and stationery.

Wallace amended his police pocket notebook by adding notes about the money being separated from the wallet.

Mr Sandiford said the defendant's actions had affected Mr Rutter's partner by making her relive the events surrounding his death and had shattered her faith and trust in the police and other people.

The court heard that Wallace had no previous convictions but had received a final written warning in 2010 for breaching police conduct regulations by forging the signature of a witness on a statement.

Judge John Thackray QC told Wallace: "A prison sentence is nearly always required to mark the affront to our justice system when a person has committed the offence of perverting the course of justice. When committed by a police officer, the offence is particularly serious.

"In this case, there was an element of persistence and obvious planning."

He continued: "I am urged to consider here suspending the inevitable custodial sentence. I accept your risk of reoffending could be managed within the community, I accept you could be rehabilitated in the community, I accept an immediate custodial sentence will have a catastrophic effect on you and your family.

"But I am afraid, Mr Wallace, only appropriate punishment can be achieved with an immediate custodial sentence."

Wallace, wearing glasses, a dark grey shirt and black trousers, showed no emotion as he was sentenced and led from the dock in handcuffs.

A count of theft in respect of the stolen money was ordered to lie on file after it was accepted that it was incorporated into the more serious perverting the course of justice charge.

Miranda Biddle, regional director for the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), said the criminal charges followed an investigation by the IOPC and outstanding conduct matters were being dealt with by Humberside Police.

She said: "Police officers are expected to display high levels of honesty and integrity so, when allegations are made that undermine those expectations, it is vital that they are fully investigated."