Police have said they take information security “extremely seriously” after failing to establish who sent a complaint to a woman’s employer from their system.
Michael Hetherington, 28, was working as a police officer when he was accused of using a computer at Queen Street Police Station in Aberdeen to accuse his ex-partner of having sex with colleagues on her lunch breaks and turning up for work unfit through drink to do her job.
The company investigated and established none of the accusations about the woman were true and they had no concerns about her professional conduct.
Hetherington was cleared at Aberdeen Sheriff Court of any wrongdoing after a one-day trial last month.
But the court accepted that the accusation was made in an electronic message sent from a computer at Queen Street Police Station – prompting concerns about whether it could happen again.
The court heard how someone logged on to a computer in the building and visited the website of the woman’s employer.
They clicked on the ‘contact us’ section and filled out a form with a message.
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The court heard there were issues that prevented police from being certain who sent the message.
The person who sent the message did not log off their machine afterwards – so investigators could not establish when they visited the website.
They were also using a shared IP address.
A Police Scotland witness, senior technical auditor Mark Cunningham-Dickie, had admitted that – though unlikely – an individual could use someone else’s password to log on.
Sheriff William Summers said: “I’m not satisfied that the evidence is sufficient to implicate the accused, as the evidence shows it was possible for someone else to access the account from which the electronic message was sent.”
Hetherington, whose address was given in court papers as Willowbank Road, Aberdeen, was found not guilty of stalking the woman by accessing her social media accounts without her consent and contacting her employer to make work-related allegations about her.
A Police Scotland spokesman said: “We take all matters relating to information security extremely seriously which includes the use of IT systems, and have a range of operating procedures and policies in place to govern and monitor usage.
“All police officers and staff are made aware of these policies and procedures which they are expected to adhere to at all times.
“Mandatory awareness training is provided and anyone found to be misusing systems, whether intentionally or not, can face disciplinary action.”