Northern Ireland news

Former harbour police officer avoids prison for falsifying statement

Scott Harkins leaves court following his sentencing for 'misconduct in a public office' as a Belfast Harbour Police constable

A former police officer has narrowly avoided prison after falsifying a statement over a speeding investigation.

Ex-Belfast Harbour Police constable Scott Harkins, who once received a life-saving bravery award, was told by a judge she was suspending his three-month jail term for a year as he had already "lost his job and his reputation''.

Harkins, whose address was given at c/o BHP Milewater Basin, Belfast, pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office.

Prosecution barrister Philip Henry told Belfast Crown Court that on October 27 2017, he was on duty with a female colleague in the Belfast Harbour estate when they observed a taxi exceeding the speed limit.

He submitted a statement of evidence and "thereafter he left work for a significant period on sick leave".

The court heard that on his return to work in April 2018, Harkins received an email from his supervisor inviting him to "confirm that the speedometer was checked for accuracy''.

The following day he replied by email indicating that the "statements had been amended accordingly''.

Mr Henry said: "The Crown case is that the accuracy of the speedometer had not been checked on the date in question, meaning the new insertions into the statements were false.''

Defence barrister Ian Turkington told the court that Harkins "is a man with a clear record and of impeccable good character''.

The father-of-two received an award for rescuing an unconscious woman from the River Lagan where he was also an RNLI crew volunteer for 15 years

Mr Turkington said having lost his job of 15 years, he has since found employment overseas working three months on and three months off in an effort provide for his family.

Judge Patricia Smyth said it is "important that every police officer can be trusted to make truthful statements".

However, she said while it was clear that Harkins had falsified the statements, no attempt was made to make a false complaint or a false prosecution and he had already "paid a high price for your wrongdoing".

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