Corruption case reveals rot at heart of the Met

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The Independent Online
Crime Correspondent

The police service was rocked yesterday after an officer was jailed for 11 years in one of the biggest corruption scandals for 20 years.

John Donald, 37, a former detective constable at the Metropolitan Police force's Regional Crime Squad, was convicted at the Old Bailey of selling secret information which caused several investigations to collapse and compromised vital police operational units.

The conviction also raises disturbing questions about a police system which allowed a low ranking officer to obtain confidential data with apparent ease.

It was only after an investigation by the BBC TV's Panorama programme that the high level corruption was exposed.

Mrs Justice Heather Steel told Donald that he had "betrayed the trust of both your colleagues, superiors and the public on a massive scale.

"The sentence must reflect the public concern that, as a police officer, you misused and abused your position of responsibility and trust. It must not only punish you, but deter any other police officer who may be similarly tempted," she warned.

The judge also jailed Donald's paymaster, Kenneth Cressey, to seven years for providing the bribes.

Donald, who was described as a top drugs officer and the backbone of his team, had been motivated by greed. He had financial problems and more than half his income was going in support for his former wife.

He had also been seduced by and envied the lifestyle enjoyed by "those who live outside the law".

Donald had admitted taking or agreeing to accept bribes for information about undercover police operations.

Cressey, 38, from Ditton, Kent, was convicted yesterday for giving or offering Donald more than pounds 60,000 for information and other help.

After the case yesterday Commander Roy Clark, regional co-ordinator of the South East Regional Crime Squad, (Sercs) said in a statement: "Donald was more than corrupt, he committed acts of treachery beyond belief. He sold operational secrets to those involved in organised crime that put the lives of police officers at risk.

"By doing this he became part of the criminal underworld which the public had paid him to combat. The damage he has done to the efforts of policing and in particular to the efforts of Sercs has been considerable."

The judge said Donald's "greatest betrayal was to offer to provide Cressey with information to pass on to two international criminals, Michael Lawson and Kenneth Noye", who were subjects in an Anglo-American police investigation into drug running.

The trial followed a raid in south London in September 1992 in which Cressey was arrested and a bag containing 52kg of cannabis resin was seized.

Cressey was charged with possessing the cannabis resin with intent to supply. Although he was convicted yesterday of the corruption charges the jury failed to reach a verdict on the drugs allegations and he faces a retrial on that charge.

The pair's corrupt activities included one deal when, for pounds 10,000, Donald agreed to provide Cressey with sensitive information about two of his associates, Kenny Noye and Michael Lawson.

Catching corruption, page 4