A DISGRACED police officer who used the force computer as a way to contact sex workers walked laughing from a court yesterday (Monday).

Neil Hempsell was allowed to keep his job with Northumbria Police even after he admitted contacting vice girls by taking their details from the police computer system in 2007.

Undaunted by the disciplinary action he faced, Hempsell continued to use the system for his own purposes, looking up a former lover, more sex workers and the details of a known criminal who drank in his local.

He admitted four charges, and yesterday the 48-year-old escaped with a community order, walking out of Teesside Crown Court laughing and doffing an imaginary cap.

Hempsell admitted three counts of improper use of the force computer and he and a fellow constable Roisin Turnbull, 38, admitted improperly exercising the powers of a police constable by giving false accounts in the arrest of a drug dealer.

Prosecutor Toby Hedworth, QC, told the court: "In July 2007, Neil Hempsell's number was found in the phone of a female sex worker.

"He acknowledged he had been using the services of sex workers and accessing their record on the police computer system. He was subjected to disciplinary action, found guilty of gross misconduct and fined."

Married Hempsell, who has two grown up children, was allowed to keep his job and in 2014 returned to the force computer again to look up the details of vice girls.

Mr Hedworth said: "He accessed the record of a sex worker, viewing her photographs and several pages of intelligence and he made contact with her. He accessed a massage and beauty parlour in Newcastle and intelligence on the person who ran this establishment.

"He contacted the proprietor by telephone, and text messages between them were discovered. There was evidence of contact with this woman every two to three weeks."

There were further texts to a woman who ran an escort agency and evidence he was tracking down a former lover.

Hempsell and Turnbull also admitted the new offence brought in last year of improperly exercising the powers and privileges of a police constable.

The court heard they gave false accounts of the events leading to the arrest of drug dealer Nicoleen Brown in South Shields, South Tyneside.

Mr Hedworth said they allowed a drug user to walk free with heroin he had been sold by Brown in return for the information on where and when the deal would take place.

The pair did not seek permission from a senior officer and tried to cover their tracks with a false intelligence report submitted by Hempsell.

Philip Evans, QC, for Hempsell, from Felling, Gateshead, said that other than the 2007 incident he had an unblemished police record stretching back to July 2000.

Mr Evans said: "He has lost his career of 16 years and that has had an extremely significant impact on his family life as a whole."

Dafydd Enoch, QC, for Turnbull, from Killingworth, North Tyneside, said: "She had the reputation of being an enthusiastic and dedicated officer.

"She found herself being partnered with a man who, I am afraid, was severely lacking in judgement and found herself caught up in something that was not of her own making."

Judge Howard Crowson sentenced Hempsell to 255 hours' unpaid work in the community and Turnbull was ordered to do 120 hours. Both were ordered to pay costs of £1,979.

Judge Crowson told Hempsell: "Because of your particular desires, you wanted to contact people and you did. It was entirely driven by self-interest."

He told Turnbull she was "most likely" to lose her job after her guilty plea, adding: "That is hardly a matter for regret since you are both people who have shown in your actions - particularly you Mr Hempsell - a marked disregard for the rules."