A corrupt police employee who illegally accessed sensitive information and tipped-off a criminal friend about a secret, international investigation into serious and organised crime has been jailed.
Natalie Mottram, 25, from Warrington, was today sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court to three years and nine months in prison.
She was employed by Cheshire Police but seconded to the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) where she worked as an intelligence analyst when she was arrested by National Crime Agency officers on 12 June 2020.
She was arrested as part of Operation Venetic – the NCA-led UK response to the takedown of the encrypted communications platform EncroChat.
Soon after Operation Venetic began, it became clear to investigators that there had been a leak.
Mottram told Jonathan Kay, 39, about the covert operation, and that officers had intelligence on him too.
On 24 April 2020, a friend of Kay’s 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. And are using to intercept forearms [sic] only at the moment. There [sic] software runs 48 hours behind real time. So have ur burns one day max. And try to avoid giving postcodes over it.”
‘Burns’ refers to the delete-time on messages.
He added: “Her words was are you on Encro, I said no why, I only sell a bit of bud. She said cool just giving you heads up. Because NCA now have access. But she wouldn’t lie.”
By 12 June 2020, NCA investigators suspected Mottram was responsible for the leak. They placed her under surveillance, and devised a plan to find out for certain..
On that day, her bosses asked her to analyse an intelligence log referring to Kay, who was the partner of Mottram’s close friend Leah Bennett, 38.
But the log was bogus.
Mottram left work that afternoon and drove to Kay and Bennett’s house on Newark Drive, Great Sankey, Warrington. The three had grown close a few years before over a shared love of exercise. She had her own key to Kay and Bennett’s house and let herself in.
At 5.15pm Kay - who has convictions for driving offences and being drunk and disorderly - arrived home in his car, with Bennett arriving seven minutes later in hers. The prosecution said this is when Mottram corruptly informed Kay and Bennett about the intelligence log concerning him.
Telecommunications data shows that at 5.26pm Bennett’s phone contacted a phone belonging to the partner of the man who cannot be named. This was the first time these devices had communicated in two years. It is believed the call was made to set up a meeting between Kay and the man because shortly after they met at a supermarket car park.
They walked around talking for 20 minutes before returning to their vehicles and leaving. 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.
Using a variety of records such as cell site analysis and phone data to check where the suspects were and when, NCA investigators established that on 21 April Mottram and Kay were together at his house for nearly two hours. And that evening Kay and the unnamed man spoke on the phone.
On 24 April Mottram was again with Kay and Bennett at their home. Her computer records reveal she was working on Operation Venetic from their address. Kay and the man spoke again on the phone later that day.
Mottram, of Vermont Close, Great Sankey, Warrington had clearly betrayed information about the secret Operation Venetic investigation.
In August Mottram admitted misconduct in public office, perverting the course of justice and unauthorised access to computer material.
Kay admitted perverting the course of justice at an earlier hearing. He was jailed for 30 months today.
A charge of perverting the course of justice against Bennett was today dropped.
John McKeon, head of the NCA’s anti-corruption unit, said: “Operation Venetic is a once in a generation investigation which has made a huge contribution to public protection.
“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.
“There is no place for corrupt officers in UK law enforcement and it was vital that this investigation uncovered her betrayal.”
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.
“We expect our officers and staff to uphold the highest standards of professional behaviour, to maintain the trust and confidence of the communities we serve. Natalie’s actions fell far below the standards and values we expect. She failed in her public duty, I hope her sentence leads her to reflect on her wrong-doing and the impact this has had on victims of organised crime, herself, and her family.
“I’d like to reassure the public that the overwhelming majority of our staff at the NWROCU serve our communities with the utmost integrity and honesty.”
Superintendent Simon Parsonage, Head of Professional Standards at Cheshire Constabulary, said: “I welcome the sentence handed to Mottram and I hope that her conviction provides reassurance to our communities. Mottram abused her position by accessing highly sensitive data which she then shared with people outside the organisation.
“As a result of the partnership work between Cheshire Constabulary, the NCA, ROCU and the IOPC she has now been held accountable for her actions. As this case demonstrates nobody is above the law, and I want to reassure the public that we are committed to doing all we can to root out any officers or staff who fail to meet the high standards that the people of Cheshire expect and deserve.”
The NCA inquiry was part of an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IoPC) directed investigation.
Mottram started work at Cheshire Police in August 2017 as an apprentice.
In May 2018 she was seconded to the NW ROCU as an intelligence researcher.
Soon after, all employees were sent a standard reminder never to search corporate systems for their own purposes. Mottram acknowledged the warning.
By 2020, her role was to conduct threat assessments of OCGs. She was briefed on the details of Operation Venetic and was advised about not widely discussing details of the sensitive operation.
As well as the crimes she has admitted, the evidence against her revealed she bought cannabis from a dealer whose phone number was saved in her mobile phone; had told Bennett about a murder file she had seen on her boss’s desk. And she also took selfies with her work computer visible and showing a document classified as ‘Official Sensitive’ meaning it required certain handling conditions.
The man who cannot be named for legal reasons was previously summoned to appear at court where he was due to be charged with perverting the course of justice. He failed to attend.
3 November 2023