AN Albury police officer had nothing to gain and everything to lose when he accessed confidential information for a former colleague, a magistrate said yesterday.
Magistrate Tony Murray said he accepted Lee Michael McCarthy had mental health issues, agreeing to an application for McCarthy — who has been on suspension without pay — to be dealt with under the Mental Health Criminal Procedure Act.
He was discharged without conviction to undertake a treatment plan for his mental health issues and he will not be required to return to court unless he fails to comply in regards to his treatment over the next six months.
On March 3, McCarthy, 52, had pleaded guilty to checking the department’s restricted data computer system.
He had answered the phone when Regina Watson, who left the police force in 2012, called the Albury police station’s main switch on August 12.
A phone intercept warrant had been granted on Watson’s phone a couple of months before the call.
Watson asked McCarthy for a favour, saying she wanted him to “look her up” in the police confidential system.
She told McCarthy she thought she was being investigated and convinced him to access her details.
Watson has entered a plea of not guilty to a charge of making a collusive agreement with a police officer and a defended hearing will take place later this year, with McCarthy expected to give evidence.
Solicitor Greg Willis told Mr Murray yesterday McCarthy had made an error of judgment, adding: “When he looks at it now he thinks, ‘what on earth was I thinking?’.”
“The information was of no personal interest to him; he allowed himself to be induced into accessing this information.
“He had no use for this information and in fact, there was no information.”
McCarthy had been suffering chronic post-traumatic stress.
The symptoms had been apparent in 2008, when he first sought treatment.
Mr Willis said those mental health issues had been in play in McCarthy’s 2012 assault on a man.
McCarthy was put on a two-year bond without conviction after pleading guilty to the assault that happened after he had been called to a pub brawl.
Mr Murray said the fact McCarthy was on a bond at the time was an aggravating factor but his latest offence was at the lower end of the scale.
“There has been no benefit to him, quite to the contrary, it has been to his substantial detriment,” Mr Murray said.