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Abuse of power Disgraced police officer who had illicit affair with 'vulnerable woman' is jailed

Mark 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’

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Mark Goddard

Mark Goddard

Mark Goddard

A disgraced Northern Ireland police officer who used and abused his position of power to exploit a vulnerable drug addict he had a year-long illicit affair with has been handed a two-year sentence.

Mark Goddard (36) was ordered to spend half his sentence in jail and the rest under supervised licence conditions.

Judge Patrick Lynch QC told Goddard that, as a police officer, “you were in a position of privilege and power”.

“You abused that position to satisfy your own sexual desires at the expense of a vulnerable young woman who, by your own admission, you cared little for as a person,” he said.

At an earlier hearing, father-of-two Goddard (36) and whose address was given as c/o Lisburn PSNI station, entered guilty pleas to two counts of misconduct in public office.

He disclosed confidential information from the police computer system and “wilfully misconducted yourself to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust” in 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 you to engage in such activity”.

Both offences were committed between 14 June, 2017 and 12 May, 2018.

The court heard previously and the judge recounted again on Monday how Goddard, who served for eight years in the PSNI, arrested and questioned the drink and drug addicted “vulnerable” victim in relation to a burglary in June 2017.

She had stood in the same dock and before the same judge as Goddard did on Monday when she was handed a probation order for that offence.

In the woman’s statement of evidence, she conceded she had begun to “chase him” and that she “fancied him”.

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

Judge Lynch revealed that during the affair, 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,” sending explicit images of himself and asking for intimate images of her “in return”.

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Calling her “sugar t***” and his “secret f*** buddy,” the pair had numerous consensual sexual encounters in Goddard’s marital home, his car and a “designated meeting point” but their illicit affair came to light In May 2018 when the police were investigating a stabbing incident and spoke to the woman who revealed she had been having an affair with Goddard.

That revelation sparked the investigation which uncovered not just the affair but also that Goddard had accessed the police computer system and disclosed confidential details to his lover in breach of the police code of conduct.

The information he disclosed were not “matters of intelligence” but rather revealing to her 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 adding that by accessing the police computer system, he had “affirmed his authority” over her.

An examination of her phone revealed that Goddard “was always telling her to keep her mouth shut” and also that when the pair had a sexual encounter in Goddard’s marital bedroom on Boxing Day, the officer's lover took a photograph, sending the image to his wife and it was that action which brought the affair to an end.

Earlier, defence counsel Michael McAleer, instructed by McConnell Kelly solicitors, submitted 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 the disgraced officer has 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 told Goddard, who appeared at court by videolink from prison, sentencing authorities were clear in that “punishment and deterrence are important elements in cases such as this so that the public see condign punishment will be visited upon serving police officers who are guilty of misconduct”.

Judge Lynch said he 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”.

“The public are entitled to expect a high degree of integrity from police officers…..and the defendant has fallen very far from the level that would be expected,” said the judge.

Speaking after the hearing, the woman Goddard exploited welcomed the fact that he had been jailed.

“He deserves it,” said the Lisburn woman, “I fell in love with him and I thought he loved me but it was all lies.”

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