Court worker illegally looked up husband-to-be on Crown Office system

Kirsten Fordham claimed a colleague told her she was 'free to look up any case bar that of Alex Salmond' on the internal register.

Glasgow court officer told she could ‘look up any case bar Alex Salmond’ fined for checking relatives charges SNS Group

A fiscal officer who illegally tried to access information on relatives including her husband-to-be has been fined £420.

Kirsten Fordham was based at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) headquarters in Glasgow’s Gorbals.

The 30-year-old – a member of the High Court sexual offences team – claimed as a new employee she was trying to understand computer software.

She also stated she was told by colleague she could look at any file except that of former First Minister Alex Salmond.

Mr Salmond was going through criminal proceedings at the time.

Fordham, of Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, ended up being prosecuted by her former employers.

The first offender was found guilty at Glasgow Sheriff Court to recklessly obtaining personal data without consent.

The charge spanned between April and May 2019.

Fordham’s lawyer Danielle McAlonan attempted to get her client an absolute discharge.

If successful, the offence would have been wiped off Fordham’s record.

Ms McAlonan told the court that Fordham was told to leave while on the job as a community care officer at East Ayrshire council because of the trial’s media coverage.

The lawyer stated that Fordham was then relieved of her duties.

She added: “Ms Fordham suffered with her mental health due to the media coverage, the nature of the trial and the length of the court proceedings.

“It is my view that she has been punished enough.”

Sheriff Michael Hanlon rejected the request for an absolute discharge.

He said: “I need to take into account that this was not simply one access to the system – it was a number over a period of time.

“It must be distressing for her but this is not a case for an absolute discharge and I will confirm the conviction.”

The trial heard from COPFS senior business manager Katie Woods, who told how Fordham started her job in April 2019.

Her duties included photocopying, scanning, filing and updating management systems.

Fordham’s contract included not accessing case files “without a legitimate reason”.

But, just weeks into the job, Fordham first checked information on her dad’s driving offence in 2006.

Ms Woods stated this was not a High Court matter and caused her “concern” leading to her confronting Fordham.

The witness said: “I asked why she accessed this case and she said that he was looking up her own surname and attempting to teach herself the case management system.”

Ms Woods believed Fordham was being genuine.

But, she then became aware of further multiple checks Fordham later made. 

It was discovered that she had accessed 52 cases on the COPFS system between April and May 2019.

Ms Woods said some were “potentially legitimate” relating to High Court work.

But, the witness told the trial there were others such as sheriff court summary cases and deaths accessed.

Fordham’s searches included looking up her then-boyfriend, now husband. 

Ms Woods said: “I asked if she knew anyone by that name and she said it was her boyfriend’s name. I then deemed it as inappropriate.”

Ms Woods claimed she was told by Fordham that she was trying to learn the ropes.

She added: “Her buddy and manager would teach her the system. I just don’t see how anyone would think that was okay to search in that way. I didn’t believe her explanation.”

Ms Woods stated that Fordham did various training courses that involved handling personal data.

Fordham told the court in her evidence that she was “rushed” through online learning courses during her first two days of work.

She claimed that there was “no physical training” on the computer filing system.

Fordham was asked during the trial if a colleague told her “you could look up anything as long as it was not the Alex Salmond case”.

Fordham insisted she was informed that.

She was dismissed from her role in October 2020 following an investigation.

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