Dyslexic ex-sergeant jailed after bad spelling gives away dirty tricks campaign

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A police officer who waged a dirty tricks campaign to blacken the name of an innocent man has been jailed for three years, four months after being caught out by his bad spelling.

Colin Hughes made a series of allegations against a man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claiming he was a drug dealer and owned a replica gun.

The 35-year-old ex-RAF officer was a sergeant and sometimes acting inspector for Merseyside Police at the time, Manchester Crown Court heard.

He made 20 false reports to Crimestoppers, between July 2014 and May, 2015, anonymously reporting that his target, a father-of-two, was dealing heroin and cocaine and made 15 further false allegations to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).

Some of the reports were made online while he sat at his computer in Tuebrook police station in Liverpool, the court heard.

The false intelligence was passed on to police colleagues and social workers, and on one occasion the victim was stopped, searched and questioned by officers but the authorities realised the reports were malicious and untrue, the court heard.

But Hughes, who has dyslexia, was caught after forging documents purporting to be from his Chief Superintendent and Superintendent, to be used in court - and spelled their ranks wrongly.

Duncan Bould, prosecuting, said the letters, along with the other reports, "bore the significant hallmarks of poor spelling and grammatical errors", and Hughes's habit of putting capital letters in the middle of words due to his dyslexia.

Police were alerted and Hughes, from the Wirral, who had been a police officer for 12 years, was arrested and suspended from his job in December 2015.

Officers found his online reports to Crimestoppers and the NSPCC on his police computer and also discovered he had forged a letter from his former teacher at South Wirral High School.

It had helped him secure £5,000 funding from his force for a place on a masters degree course at Liverpool Hope University.

Hughes admitted two counts - perverting the course of justice and forgery, between July 2014 and December 2015 - at an earlier hearing.

John Parry-Jones, mitigating, said the defendant was suffering from an undiagnosed borderline personality disorder, which predisposed him to engage in impulsive and risky behaviour.

He added: "His previous life is completely broken. He advanced through the ranks of Merseyside Police. It was contemplated he would advance his career further. This is going to haunt him."

Passing sentence, the Recorder of Manchester, Judge David Stockdale QC, said although Hughes's medical conditions explained some of his "extraordinary conduct", he had no alternative but to jail him.

He added: "This has been persistent and sustained offending over a period of time and of the utmost seriousness.

"You have brought disgrace on yourself and tarnished the reputation of Merseyside Police."

Hughes was dismissed from the force in his absence at a misconduct hearing of Merseyside Police on Friday.

Detective Chief Superintendent Karen Cummings said: "Merseyside Police demands the highest possible standards from its officers and staff. We will always thoroughly investigate when we receive information about those that fall below those professional standards, to ensure the public can continue to have the utmost confidence in the force.

"Sgt Hughes's conduct fell below this standard. We will not have officers and staff working for us who do not uphold the highest levels of professionalism and honesty.

"Thankfully the vast majority of officers who work for Merseyside Police do a really good job day in, day out and serve our communities with compassion, integrity and professionalism."