Sentence upheld for disgraced police officer
A 2½-year prison sentence imposed on a disgraced police officer who dumped traffic tickets for cash has been upheld by the Court of Appeal.
Kyle Wheatley, who had served in the Court Liaison Unit, was jailed last year after he pleaded guilty to defeat the ends of justice.
Prosecutors launched an appeal against his sentence on the ground the sentence was “manifestly inadequate” and should have been between three-and-a-half and five years.
But the appeals court ruled that, although the sentence was low, it was not low enough to overturn.
Sir Christopher Clarke, president of the Court of Appeal, said in a written judgment: “Looking at the matter in the round, we take the view that it was open to the judge to take a starting point — before discount for plea — of the order of four years.
“Whilst the sentence imposed can, by reference to the guidelines be said to be either on the low side or below that specified if the culpability and harm were both at the highest level, we do not regard it as manifestly inadequate.”
The Court heard that Wheatley had access to traffic tickets issued by other officers.
Because of his position he was able to “pull” tickets, which would result in the accused escaping prosecution.
Sir Christopher said: “For a period of about two years between early 2016 and January 2018, Wheatley pulled tickets in return for cash.
“Two other people acted as ‘brokers' for him by identifying people who had received traffic tickets and obtaining cash for him, from which they received a commission, in order for their traffic tickets to be pulled.
“It appears that in total at least 61 traffic tickets never resulted in court proceedings as a result of Wheatley's activities.”
It was estimated that Wheatley received about $10,700 from the scheme.
The tickets were said were worth a total of around $29,675.
Acting Puisne Judge Juan Wolffe said at Wheatley's sentencing in the Supreme Court last December that the offences struck at the heart of the justice system and a clear message had to be sent.
But Mr Justice Wolffe took into account Wheatley's 14 years of service, previous good character, remorse and guilty plea when he imposed the two-and-a-half year sentence.
The Crown argued on appeal that Wheatley's sentence should have been higher because he was in a position of trust.
Sir Christopher said: “We take account of the core submission of the Crown that Wheatley was in a position of particular trust, in charge of the management of traffic cases, that what he did was a corrupt interference with the justice system and that circumstance distinguishes his case from all the others that have been cited.
“We do not for a moment underestimate the public importance of having trustworthy officers operating the system.”
But Sir Christopher added: “At the same time the offence involved no misuse of police intelligence or information, nor did it involve use of confidential information to the detriment of others — activities which would seem to us to be of considerably graver consequence.”
The judgment, issued last month, added that Mr Justice Wolffe was able to factor in previous good character and remorse when he decided the base sentence before a discount for a guilty plea.
Sir Christopher said: “We would not accept that the previous good character of a man who has been a police officer for 14 years — and whose good character in any event goes back beyond 14 years — is to be entirely disregarded.
“The Crown points out that Wheatley's remorse took some time in expression since he did not resign until the day of the hearing.
“We take that point, but the judge regarded his expressions of regret and remorse as genuine.”
• It is The Royal Gazette's policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.