Blackmailing Bedfordshire detective's sentence doubled

Image source, South Beds News Agency
Image caption,
Gareth Suffling joined Bedfordshire Police from Thames Valley Police in 2014

A detective jailed for blackmailing a prostitute's customer has had his sentence doubled by the Court of Appeal.

Bedfordshire Police officer Gareth Suffling, 36, used the Police National Computer to trace the customer and left a note demanding £1,000 to keep quiet.

He admitted blackmail and was jailed for 18 months at St Albans Crown Court.

The Court of Appeal said it was "a very serious criminal enterprise" and increased the sentence to three years.

The Solicitor General, Robert Buckland QC, argued Suffling's initial sentence was too lenient and referred it to the appeal court.

At his trial in September, St Albans Crown Court heard he contacted a sex worker who operated out of a mobile home.

The detective, of Osborn Road, Barton-Le-Clay, lay in wait and photographed a customer arriving and leaving.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
The Court of Appeal was told Suffling's term was too low given the seriousness of the offence

Using the Police National Database, Suffling traced the owner of the car and left a package of the photos on the man's windscreen outside his home.

He attached a "menacing" letter, demanding £1,000, the court was told.

When the customer reported what happened to the police, Suffling was part of the team investigating the blackmail.

Paul Jarvis, for the Solicitor General, told the Court of Appeal, the 18-month sentence was "far too low given the seriousness of the offending".

Ben Holt, representing Suffling, said he was of previous good character and suffering from a "moderate depressive episode" at the time of the offence.

Judge Sir Brian Leveson, sitting with Mrs Justice Simler and Judge Karen Walden-Smith, said it was a "very serious criminal enterprise".

"It required planning, thought and a series of actions, each one of which anyone, let alone a police officer, would have known was extremely serious," he said.

Suffling also pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office.

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