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How sharing a warning about a pedophile cost a policewoman her job

An 18-year veteran of the local force in Pamplona has been sentenced and fined after forwarding on a report about a British man who tried to lure a child into his vehicle

Officers from the Navarre regional force in a file photo.
Officers from the Navarre regional force in a file photo.

Should a mother be sentenced for warning her husband about the presence of a pedophile at their daughter’s school? Should an officer from the local police force lose her job for having informed a National Police officer that a man with a criminal record for grooming children tried to lure a student to his house?

A court in Pamplona believes she should. Teresa, a local police officer in the northern Spanish city of Pamplona for nearly 18 years, has been slapped with a €4,200 fine and banned from holding a public job or role for a year and a half (meaning she will have to leave the force) for disclosure of secrets by a public official.

Teresa’s crime was to send her husband  a photo via WhatsApp of an internal Navarre police report

Teresa’s crime was to send her husband a photo via WhatsApp of an internal report that the Navarre regional police had sent to the local police. It was a request for cooperation after an incident that had taken place two weeks prior outside her daughter’s school, when a man tried to convince a 10-year-old boy to get into his vehicle and come to his house. The conversation between the two was held in English, and the personal information – name, nationality, address – of a Briton with a criminal record for pedophilia, and who had recently moved to Pamplona, was included, as well as the license plate of his vehicle.

Teresa’s husband, a member of the National Police force, sent the message on to a colleague whose daughter went to the same school. And he in turn sent the message via email to his ex-wife, also a police officer in the regional force. She then cropped the message to cut out the name of the sender, and forwarded the photo to a WhatsApp group made up of the mothers of the children at the school. The mass distribution of the message forced the local and regional police, as well as the school itself, to send out messages calling for calm.

The mass distribution of the message forced the local and regional police, as well as the school itself, to send out messages calling for calm

Teresa argued that she alerted her husband because he was a police officer, and that he was going to school to collect their daughter and could, as such, check whether the suspect vehicle was in the area. But the judge ruled that she did not follow the proper procedure, nor was it within her powers to issue such a warning. According to the ruling, all of the police officers who forwarded the message violated the privacy and presumption of innocence of the suspect man, but Teresa was the only person to be sentenced because she became aware of the report through her job.

Her defense lawyer, Antonio Suárez Valdés, said: “It is very sad that an officer should lose her job for trying to prevent a pedophilia offense from taking place at her daughter’s school, something that any parent would do.”

English version by Simon Hunter.

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