A FORMER Greater Manchester policeman, working in the High-Tech Crime Unit, who stole electronic items seized during investigations, was jailed for 12 months yesterday.

It had been thought that 43-year-old Steven Halliwell was a paedophile as it was found he had downloaded hundreds of indecent images of children from some of the items but a judge has now accepted that was incidental to the theft.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that Halliwell, who has twice been commended for his bravery, had made at least £4,800 from selling the mobile phones and computer equipment but it has cost him “hundreds of thousands of pounds” in lost wages and pension.

And while on bail for three years, during which time complicated investigations were carried out by his colleagues into his activities, he has been banned by social services from staying overnight at his home with his two children.

“Your personal life and career is now essentially in tatters,” said Judge Andrew Menary, QC.

“It is very sad indeed to see someone like you in the dock in a crown court, someone who has performed commendable work as a police officer…..The financial situation of your family has been damaged and dramatically reduced.”

But he told Halliwell that the case involved a serious breach of trust and “only an immediate sentence of imprisonment can be justified.”

He accepted he did not have an unhealthy sexual interest in children but he automatically had to order him to sign on the Sex Offenders Register for seven years.

He said that the stolen items contained personal and private data and sometimes highly sensitive and illegal images.

“But for purely financial reasons you took those items over a period of time intending to re-format them and supplement your income by selling them on.”

Halliwell resigned from the police force after pleading guilty to four offences of making indecent images in all three categories of seriousness involving a total of 421 indecent photographs.

Halliwell, of Lee Avenue, Great Lever, Bolton also admitted stealing 22 electronic items including 16 mobile phones, iPad minis, MacBook Airs and a laptop between July 21, 2011 and February 9, 2016.

Neville Biddle, prosecuting, said that Halliwell’s job based at the Bradford Park complex was to examine mobile communication devices seized during investigations, some relating to indecent images of children.

The unit dealing with this work was set up in January 2101 and in February 2016 a virus was suspected on their computer network.

This led to investigations which discovered a USB hard drive containing two discs at Halliwell’s workplace. In a folder on it indecent images of children were found and a large number of deleted phone examination reports which had overwhelmingly been undertaken by Halliwell. The images believed to have resulted from his phone examinations were found in a folder.

His car and home were searched and among a large amount of computer and electronic equipment was a tower computer system on the landing. It contained four hard discs and examination revealed 291 indecent images of children which were in “thumb cache” folders.

The court heard that the indecent images had been created while Halliwell, who had been with the force for 12 years, was deleting them from seized phones and laptops. Twelve of the stolen items were found at his home, four had been sold to a friend of his wife’s and he had sold others on Ebay.

He made no comment when interviewed but in his basis of plea denied having any sexual interest in children.

His barrister, Michael Brady, said that he had had a secure well paid job and the prospect of a handsome pension and he had thrown it away “to enrich himself to a relatively modest extent.”

He stressed that he had no sexual interest in children and the images had been created while he was deleting material from the equipment. The proceedings have had an impact on his health and that of his wife but “he is the author of his own misfortune.”

“He has lost hundreds of thousands of pounds in terms of income and pension.”

He said that Halliwell is now self-employed repairing telephones and computers and his wife works as a dinner lady.

Halliwell’s wife was in tears in the public gallery as he was led to the cells.