A PANEL must decide whether a former policeman was 'on a fishing expedition' or just doing his job when he used police databases to access relatives' files.

Retired North Yorkshire Police officer Mark Thompson is accused of gross misconduct by using the force's NICHE records system to access details of his brother and father without a genuine policing reason.

Mr Thompson, who spent his latter years as a Thirsk-based traffic constable, maintains that he conducted the searches because he believed his brother was frequently drink driving.

He claimed he had learned of a Harrogate pub that his brother frequented and wanted to find which vehicles he was registered to so that he could be targeted as a potential drink driver.

Mr Thompson said that the first of the two searches, in 2014, was initiated after a police sergeant who had dealings with his brother asked for more information about him.

On the second day of the misconduct hearing in Northallerton, solicitor Briony Ballard said that the sergeant's dealings with Mr Thompson's brother happened in 2012, therefore it made 'absolutely no sense' that the officer would have reason to access his files two years later.

She also stated that the time Mr Thompson spent looking at the files did not reflect a targeted search in line with a drink driving enquiry.

She said: "This was a fishing expedition out of curiosity, not a focused search."

Ms Ballard also pointed out that Mr Thompson's training would have made it clear that police officers should refer investigations into their own relatives to a supervising officer.

For Mr Thompson, Michael Rawlinson said it was 'inherently improbable' that an officer of good character who had used police intelligence systems for 30-years should suddenly develop a curiosity about his brother.

Mr Rawlinson said: "This isn't a question of somebody using the NICHE system to get a favourable outcome for a relative.

"It is a case of an officer doing what this officer does and has done for 30-years; targeting drink drivers."

Mr Rawlinson said that the sergeant who had raised the matter of Mr Thompson's brother had retired in 2014 and it 'wasn't inconceivable' that the conversation took place in that year and thus prompted the record search.

He added that no documentary evidence had been put forward to show that an officer should not be carrying out intelligence checks on a family member.

Mr Rawlinson said the matter could have been dealt with as 'a learning experience' and did not amount to gross misconduct.

"At worst, this is a good officer, a conscientious officer, who potentially made a mistake." he said.

The panel is expected to make their decision today.