Matrix cop sacked for illegally looking up records on police computer 242 times

John Sabatina looked up details on his own house after he had been burgled

17 MARCH 2016 | BY LUKE TRAYNOR FOR LIVERPOOL ECHO



A POLICE sergeant was sacked yesterday for snooping on Merseyside force computers to check on a burglary at his own home address.

John Sabatina faced a misconduct hearing after he was caught accessing out-of-bounds information, which also included looking at details of his dad, daughter, uncle and cousins.

Matrix cop sacked illegally looking records police computer

Sir Jon Murphy, Merseyside Police chief constable, said Sabatina had let down the force and the public.

The 49-year-old made 242 checks on the police database which were illegal, which he later argued were for ‘self-training’, and not against the law.

The senior officer, most recently working for the Matrix unit, which tackle gun, gang and drug crime on Merseyside, also searched for information held on himself on police computers.

His breaches were criminally prosecuted and he was convicted at Preston Magistrates Court in February of offences under the Computer Misuse Act and Data Protection Act.

Sabatina, of St John’s Road, in Prescot, who said his computer trawling was for ‘policing purposes’, was fined £1,200 and ordered to pay £2,050 costs.

Now, he has been dismissed after Sir Jon Murphy, the force’s Chief Constable, heading the disciplinary panel, ruled he was guilty of gross misconduct and had breached his professional standards.

He told the hearing: “The reality speaks for itself. Sergeant Sabatina has let down Merseyside Police, his colleagues, and let down the public he was paid to serve. Public confidence is hard won and precious.”

Mr Sabatina, whose misconduct spanned an eight year period, between 2003 and 2011, illegally snooped on computers on 19 separate dates at Canning Place, Merseyside Police’s headquarters.

The dismissed cop, who did not attend the hearing at Wavertree Technology Park, because of a ‘current welfare condition’, was represented by PC Dave Sim, from Merseyside Police Federation.

In a statement, he described himself as having an ‘unblemished’ police career, which started in January 2002, and involved stints at Walton Lane station, Kirkby, and Smithdown Lane, where Matrix are based.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Baxter, of the Merseyside Police Anti-Corruption Unit, told the hearing: “The officer knew exactly what he was doing and knew exactly he should not be doing it.

“The evidence is overwhelming and incontrovertible.”

Mr Sabatina argued many of his checks were carried out before 2006 when warning messages did not appear on the Merseyside Police computers to warn users of potential criminal and professional breaches if they chose to view sensitive material.

In his statement, he described himself as ‘well-respected and hardworking’ but agreed he ‘should have known better’ and was ‘disappointed and extremely frustrated to have come to this point.’

He added: “I acknowledge I am guilty of a stupid action rather than one of criminal intent.”

Sgt Sabatina also expressed frustration that other colleagues, who’d similarly snooped on police computers, he claimed, had been ‘given advice or more training,’ instead of facing misconduct proceedings.

The officer also alleged he’d been given permission by boss and Inspector Susan Stribling to access the particular computer material, but that was denied by the officer during his two-day magistrates court trial.

DCI Baxter added that, on two occasions where Sabatina made that claimed, she was either off-duty or at a different police station, using a different computer.

None of Sabatina’s checks were recorded in his pocket notebook, or anywhere else, in line with correct protocol, the hearing was told.

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