A Metropolitan Police officer and a Croydon Council worker have been cleared of colluding to misuse work computer systems to dig up information in a dispute over a dodgy second-hand car.

Former New Addington police community support officer (PCSO) Paul Potter, of Epsom, and council officer Alan O’Brien were on Friday acquitted of breaching the Data Protection Act following a week-long trial at Southwark Crown Court.

The pair had been accused of misusing computer systems at the Metropolitan Police and Croydon Council to privately investigate Anthony Everest, after Mr Potter, 39, discovered a Mitsubishi car he had bought from Mr Everest was in fact a “cut and shut” – two vehicles joined together.

In June 2013, Mr O'Brien, 49, requested a background check on Mr Everest and sent a scanned copy of the report to Mr Potter's private email, the court heard last week.

RELATED: Croydon Council worker accused of colluding with Met officer to dig up dirt 'didn't think it was for me to question police requests'

But giving evidence on Thursday, the anti-social behaviour officer said it was "not unusual" to carry out such checks, adding that is was “not for me to question requests from the police”.

After receiving a complaint from the car's new owner in April 2013, Mr Potter also used police systems to enquire about the registration of a Vauxhall van owned by Mr Everest in November 2013 - the same month he contacted the Police Federation asking for support with the case.

The PCSO, who joined the Met in 2003 and was later promoted to the rank of sergeant, was also alleged to have misused police computers in April and June 2014 to find out information about an alleged domestic assault involving Mr O’Brien’s brother, Paul.

The pair, who "regularly met" to discuss anti-social behaviour issues, had both denied a charge of obtaining or disclosing personal information, while Mr Potter also denied four counts of breaching the Computer Misuse Act.

They were charged following an investigation launched by the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards in July 2014.

Mr Potter and Mr O’Brien were cleared of all charges on Friday after two-and-a-half hours of deliberations by jurors.

Mr O'Brien, of Sittingbourne, Kent, had told the court that he received requests for information about individuals from police officers “almost daily” in the course of his work as anti-social behaviour officer.

Describing his relationship with Mr Potter as “professional and friendly,” Mr O’Brien said he had first heard about the police officer’s dispute over the car as a result of their frequent discussions concerning work.

He added: “It just became one of those things you asked: what's the story with the car? What's the update?"

The jury had heard how Mr O’Brien believed he was giving Mr Potter information that would be passed on to Hampshire Police, who launched an investigation after it emerged the Mitsubishi contained parts from a car stolen in South Yorkshire in 2008.

Rejecting suggestions that the report had been sent via private email addresses to “keep it off Croydon's books,” Mr O’Brien said: “It was a professional request. It was for a police officer... there was no secret about any of this. I asked my colleagues, who openly did it.”

The jury were also told heard how, in April 2014, Mr O’Brien spoke with Mr Potter about an allegation of assault made against the council worker’s brother, who had discovered his wife was having an affair with another man.

Mr O’Brien said he had no idea Mr Potter had used police systems to access the crime report against his brother and simply asked for advice because he “wanted to know what I should tell Paul to do”.

He added: “I didn’t know he was going to do that... but to be fair it seems entirely logical. He had no idea what had happened.

“Domestic arguments and fights… can go horribly wrong. So I can’t fault for checking in case my brother had chopped [the other man’s] head off.”

Mr Potter, who resigned from the Met in January 2015, was the former head of the New Addington Safer Neighbourhood Team. He received an award from the Royal Humane Society in 2013 for saving a man's life out to sea while on a fishing trip to Devon.

After quitting as a police officer, he launched an employment tribunal claim for constructive dismissal, alleging he had been forced out of the Met for whistleblowing. He withdrew the claim in June this year.

Croydon Council has been contacted for comment.

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