A corrupt police employee, who illegally accessed sensitive information to tip off a criminal friend about a secret investigation into serious crime, has been jailed.
Natalie Mottram, from Warrington in Cheshire, was working as an intelligence analyst when she was caught in an undercover sting operation to trap whoever was leaking secrets to criminals.
The 25-year-old was with the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) when she was arrested by National Crime Agency (NCA) officers on 12 June 2020.
She was held as part of Operation Venetic - the NCA-led UK response to the takedown of the encrypted communications platform EncroChat, used by gangsters and serious criminals across Europe to avoid detection.
But soon after Operation Venetic began, investigators found there had been a leak, the NCA said.
Mottram, whose job involved making threat assessments of organised crime gangs, told Jonathan Kay, 39, about the covert EncroChat operation, and that officers had intelligence on him.
On 24 April 2020, a friend of Kay, who cannot be named for legal reasons, messaged another EncroChat user to say he had learned that day about law enforcement infiltrating the platform.
And he messaged a second contact: "I no (sic) a lady who works for the police. This is not hearsay. Direct to me. They can access Encro software."
Mottram was put under surveillance
By 12 June 2020, NCA investigators suspected Mottram was behind the leak, placing her under surveillance.
The same day, she was asked by her bosses to analyse an intelligence log referring to Kay, who was the partner of Mottram's friend, 38-year-old Leah Bennett.
But the log was bogus.
Mottram, of Great Sankey, Warrington, left work that afternoon and drove to Kay and Bennett's house in Great Sankey, Warrington.
After meeting Kay and Bennett at their property, the prosecution said this was when Mottram corruptly informed them about the intelligence log concerning Kay.
Telecomms data also shows the same evening Bennett's phone contacted a phone belonging to the partner of the man who cannot be named, arranging a meeting in a supermarket car park.
Mottram, Kay, Bennett and the man were all arrested later that day and £200,000 in cash was recovered from Kay and Bennett's house.
Mottram, who started her career as an apprentice at Cheshire Police in 2017, admitted misconduct in public office, perverting the course of justice and unauthorised access to computer material. She was jailed for three years and nine months at Liverpool Crown Court.
Kay admitted perverting the course of justice at an earlier hearing. He was sentenced to two years and six months in jail.
A charge of perverting the course of justice against Bennett was dropped by prosecutors.
Operation Venetic successes
John McKeon, head of the NCA's anti-corruption unit, said of Operation Venetic: "More than 1,240 offenders have been convicted, more than 173 firearms recovered and more than nine tonnes of heroin and cocaine seized. More than 200 threats to life were averted.
"But Mottram's actions had the potential to derail all that."
Assistant Chief Constable Jo Edwards, head of the North West ROCU, said: "The overwhelming majority of people who work in policing do so to protect the public from harm, and they devote years of service to that end.
"Sadly, the actions of Natalie Mottram undermine the good work that is being done daily by her colleagues here at the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit."