Corrupt police analyst who leaked EncroChat op was promoted after moving into suspected crook's home
EXCLUSIVE: A CORRUPT police analyst was promoted and allowed to work on sensitive material remotely despite superiors being concerned when she moved into a suspected organised criminal's home.
Natalie Mottram, 25, (above) was jailed for three years and nine months at Liverpool Crown Court after she admitted misconduct in public office.
It was after she leaked details of the infiltration by law enforcement of the EncroChat encrypted mobile phones system used by a suspected around 9,000 criminals in the UK to personal trainer Jonathan Kay, 39, who was being investigated by the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU).
It has emerged that NWROCU officers had concerns about the power lifter staying at his address, where he lived with his girlfriend Leah Bennett, six months before she leaked details about EncroChat to him in April 2020, but nothing was done and she was promoted with access to more sensitive material, including the EncroChat operation.
She was employed by Cheshire Police as an apprentice aged just 19 in August 2017 and the same year seconded to NWROCU as an intelligence researcher.
By late 2018 she moved to its sensitive intelligence unit after an inspector snubbed concerns from a detective sergeant about her "youth and inexperience."
In April 2019 she made unauthorised checks into NWROCU intelligence on Kay, with details later passed to him by Mottram.
On October 23 2019 Mottram (above right with Ms Bennett) advised superiors she had moved in with Kay and his girlfriend for 14 days after being "thrown out" by her parents.
She also asked if she could work remotely from the couple's home.
Her manager was concerned enough to raise it with a chief inspector, with arrangements made for her to stay in emergency accommodation instead, but she refused and insisted on staying at Kay's.
Despite this, when, in December 2019, she applied for promotion to intelligence analyst, it was approved in 2020, when she began conducting threat assessments of organised crime groups in the North-West.
She did not permanently remain at Kay's, but had a key to let herself in and would work there on an NWROCU laptop with access to sensitive data.
On April 23 2020 she accessed details about the EncroChat operation from Kay's home and worked from his address on the laptop on April 24 and 28.
National Crime Agency (NCA) investigators, who by then had access to EncroChat messages being sent at the time, saw data that made them suspect Mottram had leaked details of the infiltration.
She was arrested in June as were Kay and Ms Bennett after £200,000 cash was found at his home.
Kay admitted perverting the course of justice in connection with the leaks and was jailed for 30 moths at the same hearing this month.
A charge of perverting the course of justice against Bennett (Below right with Kay) was later dropped by the CPS.
On Friday His Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary rated NWROCU as outstanding at dealing with organised crime.
Its report said: "The North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU) is outstanding at tackling serious and organised crime.
It said: "The North West Regional Organised Crime Unit has worked with Merseyside Police and the Home Office to develop a process to proactively target county lines.
It has developed an automated process to identify vehicles suspected of trafficking drugs. The details of these vehicles are passed to other forces for them to either carry out stops or develop an investigation.
Since January 2021, the NWROCU reports that this work has resulted in 336 vehicles being identified, 119
vehicles being stopped, 107 people being arrested, £350,000 cash being seized and substantial quantities of drugs being recovered.
This has been identified nationally as good practice and is being developed into a national programme."
However, it added: "The NWROCU has previously struggled to fill vacancies with accredited personnel. As a result, it has started to recruit unqualified personnel, who it trains and develops while in post."
Essex News and Investigations asked NWROCU a series of questions about what happened, including why she was promoted and no other action was taken when she refused the emergency accommodation.
NWROCU refused to answer any of the specific questions, but, instead, provided a general statement around the topic, which failed to answer most of them.
Strangely, it insisted there had been no risks known about Mottram until the NCA became involved, even though concerns were clearly earlier raised about her accommodation, as made clear in the CPS sentencing note for this case.
The full questions and subsequent responses are printed below:
Regarding the case of Natalie Mottram some concerns emerged during her sentencing last week.
In the sentencing note it states: "At the end of 2018 Miss Mottram was moved to the Sensitive Intelligence Unit. Whilst Detective Sergeant McDonald, one of the Sergeants within that Unit, expressed concerns about Miss Mottram’s youth and inexperience, given the sensitivity of the material she was to be provided access to, he was informed by his Inspector that Miss Mottram (below) would, nevertheless, be joining the Unit and instructed to brief her about the sensitivity of the material."
1. Was it a mistake for her to move to the Sensitive Intelligence Unit and why were the concerns of DS McDonald not heeded by superiors?
Has any management advice or misconduct proceedings happened as a result of this?
Sentence note continued: "At 07:25 on 16 April 2019 Miss Mottram carried out a NICHE search for Jonathan Kay.
At 07:41 Miss Mottram accessed OPUS and proceeded to carry out a search of Jonathan Kay. She then accessed his record and viewed it."
2. When did NM's superiors first become aware these unauthorised searches were carried out and what if any action followed against NM?
It added: "On 23 October 2019 Miss Mottram asked her manager if she could work from home as her mother had thrown her out of the family home and she was living with friends from the gym.
The address Miss Mottram gave for the address she had moved to was Newark Drive, Warrington, the home address of Jonathan Kay (below) and Leah Bennett. Miss Mottram told her manager she would be staying there for the next 14 days. Her manager was concerned about this situation and raised it with both her manager and the Chief Inspector, and arrangements made for her to stay in emergency accommodation, although Miss Mottram declined that offer and insisted she would stay with her friends from the gym. Miss Mottram was also offered counselling to help with the problems she was having with her family, but she declined to take up that offer as well."
Q3. Why did NWROCU not take any action at this time if it was concerned that NW was living temporarily at the address of a nominal who was a suspected organised criminal and under investigation at the time? Or was some action taken and if so what was it?
It added: "In December 2019 Miss Mottram applied for a promotion from intelligence researcher to intelligence analyst.
"In 2020 Miss Mottram was working in the Sensitive Intelligence Unit of the Regional Organised Crime Unit as an Analyst. Part of her role within the Unit involved conducting threat assessments of Organised Crime Groups operating in the North-West of England."
Q4. How was it possible for NM to be promoted to this role given the concerns about her having lived at the address of a nominal suspected of involvement in organised crime?
Who authorized this promotion? Has there been any management advice or misconduct action as a result of this promotion?
Q5. Given the concerns about her having lived at the address of Jonathan Kay, why was NM allowed access to sensitive information about the EncroChat operation?
Has there been any management advice or misconduct action as a result of this?
Q6. Given the concerns about her having lived at the address of Jonathan Kay, why was she allowed to work remotely with access to sensitive information?
Has there been any management advice or misconduct action as a result of this?
The sentence note added: "At 09:47 on 23 April 2020 Miss Mottram opened the Operation Venetic MORILE template on her work laptop. At 12:12 a video was taken using Miss Bennett’s mobile telephone of Miss Mottram using a rowing machine in the gym at Newark Drive."
Q7. Where did the NWROCU understand NM to be working from at the above time and in the period prior to this since October 2019? Has there been any management advice or misconduct action as a result of this?
Q8. Were any rules in place from NWROCU at this time for staff working from home about where they could access their laptops or was this unrestricted?
Q9. What changes have been brought in in respect of NWROCU workers in respect of home and remote working and where they can access their work laptops from?
NWROCU head Assistant Chief Constable Jo Edwards (above) said: “Natalie breached the trust and confidence of both her colleagues and the public through the access and disclosure of information. She joined the NWROCU in May 2018 as a researcher on secondment from her home force, Cheshire Police. As with all our staff, she was vetted prior to joining both her force and the NWROCU – she had not disclosed notifiable associations.
“On joining the Sensitive Intelligence Unit, she was provided with a briefing on the clear expectations and standards of the position prior to her appointment, this includes access to information held on police systems.
“At the time of the offences, due the impact of the Covid pandemic, Natalie was working on an agile basis, all NWROCU (North West Regional Organised Crime Unit) staff were provided with guidance in respect of remote working at this time.
“On 11 June 2020, the NCA (National Crime Agency) informed the NWROCU that they suspected Natalie was responsible for accessing Operation Venetic material and passing this information to others. Working with the NCA, the NWROCU responded immediately to establish the extent of the disclosure and put in place several measures to mitigate the potential risk she posed.
Prior to this date, the NWROCU was unaware of any risks pertaining to Natalie Mottram or her associations.
“On becoming aware of the extent of Natalie’s actions, the NWROCU has reviewed the learning from this incident and put in place additional measures to strengthen our policies and processes to mitigate against corruption.
“Natalie failed both the public and her colleagues across policing but the majority of people who work for the NWROCU do an outstanding job and are passionate about the service they provide to our communities. This case undermines the trust and confidence that the public put in us. I am not complacent in our response, and we continue to work to the eradicate individuals from our organisation who breach the standards expected of us.
“Natalie’s actions fell far below the standards and values we expect here at the NWROCU. She failed in her public duty and the sentence she received reflects the severity of her crimes.”
We followed the statement with this: "Thanks, as often happens with public authority press departments, the response does not answer the specific questions posed, but instead provides a statement around the case or subject matter, but this comes as no surprise. Just so I am clear, when she notified NWROCU that she would be at the address of Jonathan Kay in 2019 for 14 days why were officers concerned about this? Were they aware of who lived there? If so why was nothing done at this stage and why was she promoted?
Also when she was working remotely from that address on a number of occasions prior to the arrest was NWROCU aware of where she was?"
A NWROCU spokeswoman said: "We won’t be making any additional comments other than what we have released in the statement.
What I can confirm though, is that as soon as the NWROCU were informed that Natalie was suspected of being the leak, action was taken immediately. Before this date, we were unaware of any risks pertaining to Natalie Mottram or her associations."