Former member of police staff pleads guilty to misconduct in public office
A former Staffordshire Police staff member, who unlawfully accessed and stored numerous images of dead bodies on his personal computer, has pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office.
Darren Collins, 56, from Stafford, admitted his guilt today (9 November 2021) at Birmingham Crown Court for accessing over 3,000 images between January 2014 and December 2018.
Collins, who was employed as a digital forensic specialist, accessed Staffordshire Police's computer systems and downloaded numerous images, including those of deceased people from crime scenes, to memory sticks before taking the USB sticks home and uploading the images to his personal computer.
Some images related to murder scenes with or without a victim, while others depicted post-mortem examinations of murder victims.
Due to the highly-sensitive nature of his job and the data, Collins was subject to strict terms and conditions governing the confidentiality of information.
However, he used his digital expertise to create his own pathways to access a database which he had no authority to do, described as a ‘back door’ technique that avoided the proper and legitimate access procedures.
On 16 January 2019, police investigators seized Collin's workstation computers as part of an unrelated investigation. Numerous images of crime scenes investigated by Staffordshire Police were discovered when a digital forensics specialist examined the devices.
This led to a search of the defendant’s home where police seized over 60 digital devices containing large amounts of data, with one device alone containing over 500,000 images.
Due to the enormity of the task, the police used a significant amount of manpower and money to identify which images came from the Staffordshire Police’s database, and they discovered over 3,000 such images.
There was no evidence to suggest that Collins distributed any of the images.
Paul Reid of the CPS said: "There are clear professional standards to adhere to when working in a public office, and Darren Collins was in a position of trust but he abused his position and the public's trust in him as a holder of public office. He has pleaded guilty to the offence just before the commencement of his trial due to the overwhelming evidence gathered against him and reviewed by prosecutors. His actions would have no doubt caused further distress to the families of the deceased and our thoughts are with them at this time.”
Darren Collins will be sentenced on 7 January 2022.
Notes to editors
- Paul Reid is a District Crown Prosecutor for CPS West Midlands.