Three members of the Metropolitan Police quit the force in a single year after passing information to underworld figures including a prominent criminal with links to guns, it can be disclosed.
The cases were among 300 breaches of data protection rules in nearly five years at Britain’s biggest police force. The offences included passing details of drugs intelligence and tampering with computer records in an apparent attempt to cover up a car theft ring, the details showed.
The force said some of the breaches led to prosecutions but were unable to give further details yesterday.
The scale of the wrongdoing by officers has only come to light after a freedom of information request by the Press Association, raising fresh questions about the transparency of the force.
The three cases involving information being passed to criminals, which all occurred in 2009, involved:
-Criminals using a police officer to obtain data to help their offending;
-The changing and leaking of information about the ownership of cars stolen by criminal gangs;
-Leaking of intelligence of a “significant level to a prominent criminal with links to firearms”.
Last night MPs warned that the breaches undermined trust in the police following continuing scandals over cover-ups and corruption.
“The public must be able to trust the police. Leaking confidential data is wrong and will undermine that trust,” said the shadow Police minister Jack Dromey.
The links to organised crime were among the most serious of the breaches, which also included proven cases of racism, searches for pornography from office computers and checks on a cab driver by an officer who had refused to pay him the night before, according to the records.
Another officer breached data laws after disclosing on Facebook that he had lost a bag containing police paper and equipment.
The breaches covered rank-and-file officers, senior investigators and civilian staff at the Met. The most senior ranking officer was a detective chief constable who committed offences contrary to the Prevention of Corruption Act in 2011, according to the data.
The officer was not named but Det Ch Insp April Casburn was sentenced to 15 months in prison last year for misconduct in public office for trying to sell information about the phone-hacking inquiry to the News of the World. The force could not confirm if the corruption case related to Ms Casburn.
A special constable received “formal action” for making the comment “damn niggers” on a Facebook photo of two men fighting, while one officer received management action for sending a picture of armed police outside the Commons, captioned with the words “Merry Christmas... Keep calm and fuck off.”
The former shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: “The extent to which police officers have used confidential police information for criminal ends, and abused individuals’ private information for their personal benefit, is astonishing. The Met needs to review, as a matter of urgency, the security control for confidential information the police hold on the public.”
Virtually all police disciplinary hearings are closed to the public but Scotland Yard began putting the outcome of misconduct hearings on its website from May last year without naming officers.
A spokesman for the force said: “The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) treats any allegation about the conduct of its staff extremely seriously and will always take steps to determine whether the conduct of that member of staff has breached the required standards of professional behaviour.
“The number of employees that are disciplined for the misuse of police information each year, accordingly, represents a very small percentage (just over 0.1 per cent) of those employed by the MPS.”