A police officer who discovered a loophole in The National Identity Register, which enabled him to accrue 75,000 cautions in just two months and convert them to ASBOs, became so obsessed with convictions that he would arrive at his local police station “morning, noon and night”. Shaun Pennicott, a 42-year-old married father of two, was convicted of the fraud and may lose his job with Hertfordshire constabulary.
Pennicott, who regularly frequented the local housing estates in Watford town centre, discovered that online forms for ‘low level’ cautions could be sub,itted repeatedly because there was no human reader in the procedure for the cautions on the self-assessed ‘COP-out’ machines.
In the two months he made 154 submissions, each time obtaining a £150 performance related bonus and repeatedly submitted bogus cautions that could be converted into ASBOs. He collected enough bonuses to pay for six return flights between London and New York by the time the Home Office’s computer flagged up the need for a security check.
Pennicott was last week convicted at Luton crown court of “going equipped to cheat” and given a community service order. He was fined £800 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £2,500.
The Home Office yesterday admitted the loophole existed, but said it was not economically viable to make the changes to stop it.
Samantha Leigh, prosecuting, told the court Pennicott would sometimes use a caution three or four times when copping. Each bogus caution is eligible for a bonus and every £2.50 can be converted to 600 air miles. During one drive against excessive obesity, Pennicott caught 75 of the fattest boys and got almost 38 bogus cautions converted to air miles.
Pennicott said he had been amazed by what he had discovered and claimed he had planned to highlight the loophole to SOCA and the cautions were to be examples to show them.
Judge Michael Kay described his defence as “preposterous.”
“This became an obsession in my judgment,” he said. “You were so greedy you would do virtually anything to obtain cautions and turn them into air miles. You regularly travelled abroad and that is what attracted you.”