A woman who was sent heart-eye emojis on social media by a police officer whom she believes checked her number plate on a database to get her details has said the situation was “very, very worrying”.
Pc Jack Harrison allegedly entered the woman’s car registration on the Police National Computer (PNC) to find her details so he could follow her on Instagram, reacting to three of her stories with heart-eyed and flame emojis.
Pc Harrison, of Derbyshire Constabulary, denies misconduct and told a hearing on Thursday that he looked up the registration number on the PNC as he suspected the woman’s car was involved in crime, and that she later came up as a “suggested follower” on the social media platform.
During a hearing at Derbyshire police headquarters in Ripley, the complainant, who was granted anonymity by the chairing panel, said she first noticed a police officer while the pair were in a Co-op in Wirksworth, Derbyshire, on September 28 2021.
She later noticed that Pc Harrison had followed her then-public account on the platform.
Giving evidence, she said: “I recognised him as the police officer I saw at the Co-op.”
When asked by David Ring, representing the force, how this made her feel, she said: “(I thought) It was a very strange coincidence, and sort of, how has this happened?
“I did question whether plates could have been run to get my name.”
Mr Ring asked: “Overall, how did you feel about this situation and what had happened?”
The woman responded: “At the time, I was more worried that if my plates had been run (and) what information someone could take from that.
“It was a very, very worrying situation to be in and made me feel a bit nervous about what had happened.”
Under cross-examination from Steven Reed, representing Pc Harrison, the woman said that while she made her account private due to her concerns, she did not block the officer as she had been advised not to by a friend’s mother, who was also a police officer, before reporting the matter to the police.
Pc Harrison, who joined the force in January 2019 after being a Special Constable for three years, is alleged to have breached standards of professional behaviour in respect of honesty and integrity, confidentiality and discreditable conduct.
Giving his evidence, he said he did not see the woman in the Co-op and denied the claim that he watched her get into her car before tailing her.
Instead, he told Mr Reed that he first saw the car when he believed the driver, whom he could not distinguish, went “too fast” while leaving the Co-op, which he said gave him a policing purpose for the later PNC check.
He said: “I had (a) suspicion that it might be used in crime or involved in crime.”
He added: “I still think at the time the vehicle was travelling too quickly in the car park.”
After the PNC check returned no concerns, he stopped following the woman’s car, he said.
While that check was the only one he made that day, Pc Harrison said “there was no other reason to PNC check another vehicle”.
Pc Harrison said he later followed the woman on Instagram when she came up as a suggested person to follow and he did so because they had “above 30 mutual friends”, something he did with different people daily.
He said he did not remember reacting to the woman’s photos but believed he did so as he thought they were attractive.
He estimated that he reacted to people’s Instagram posts with emojis about 10 times a day to a variety of accounts, including those belonging to men, women and businesses, and followed more than 1,000 people on the platform.
Mr Ring later asked why, if the threshold for a PNC check was as low as someone speeding in a car park, no other checks were carried out that day.
He asked: “Isn’t it really that, actually, you did not suspect the car, there was nothing remarkable about the driver, and actually you just wanted the details about the driver?”
“That is incorrect”, Pc Harrison responded.
The hearing, which will determine whether Pc Harrison is guilty of gross misconduct and is expected to conclude on Friday, continues.