PSNI officer given two year sentence for exploiting vulnerable woman

Mark Goddard (36) pleaded guilty to disclosing information from police computer system

A police officer who abused his position of power to exploit a vulnerable woman addicted to drugs was handed a two year sentence on Monday.

At Craigavon Crown Court, Judge Patrick Lynch QC ordered 36-year-old Mark Goddard to spend half his sentence in jail and the rest under supervised licence conditions.

At an earlier hearing father-of-two Goddard, whose address was given as c/o Lisburn PSNI station, entered guilty pleas to two counts of misconduct in public office by disclosing confidential information from the police computer system and that while both on and off duty, he engaged in a sexual relationship with a woman he encountered as part of his duties, "knowing that she was vulnerable at that time and that it was wrong for [him] to engage in such activity". The offences were committed between June 14th, 2017 and May 12th, 2018.

The judge recounted on Monday how Goddard, who served for eight years in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), arrested and questioned the drink and drug addicted "vulnerable" victim in relation to a burglary.

When she texted him late one night while intoxicated, he initially maintained that “he was a married police officer and she was a criminal and that was not allowed”, but by the end of the month, the pair had begun a consensual sexual relationship.

The judge revealed that during the time of the offences, Goddard had sent her close to 10,000 text messages, including 3,205 “when he was on duty” and with many of them “highly sexualised”.

The offences came to light in May 2018 when police investigating a stabbing incident spoke to the woman, who revealed the situation.

An investigation found Goddard had accessed the police computer system and disclosed confidential details to the woman in breach of the police code of conduct.

He did not disclose “matters of intelligence” but revealed to the woman that she was going to be spoken to, with a warning to “clear her phone”.

“He was in a position of authority and exploited a clearly vulnerable young woman,” said the judge.

Earlier defence counsel Michael McAleer, instructed by McConnell Kelly solicitors, said that “we have a man who made not just a silly mistake but an absolutely outrageous mistake of not resisting an advance that was made to him . . . he will leave the force with his head hung low in shame”.

He said while Goddard had lost "essentially what would have been a job for life," his wife is standing by him and the family are relocating to England.

On Monday, the judge accepted that a prison sentence for a police officer will be a “particular hardship” but that his offending was “a gross breach of the trust reposed in the defendant”.