ENCROCHAT HACK: Police employee on organised crime unit charged in Op Venetic anti-corruption probe


EXCLUSIVE: A POLICE staff member has been charged as part of the country's biggest ever operation against against suspected organised criminals, following an anti-corruption investigation

Natalie Mottram, 22, a Cheshire Constabulary employee on secondment to the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit is due to appear in court next month following an investigation into the alleged unauthorised disclosure of information.

Following an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) directed investigation, conducted by the National Crime Agency (NCA) on behalf of Cheshire Constabulary, she has been charged with unauthorised access to computer material and perverting the course of justice.

The 22-year-old was based in Warrington and on secondment to the organised crime unit as an intelligence analyst at the time of the alleged offences.

Two members of the public have also been charged with perverting the course of justice, while a charge has been authorised but not yet served in relation to a third.

The alleged offences were identified by the NCA as part of Operation Venetic, the UK law enforcement response to the takedown of encrypted communications platform EncroChat.

An IOPC spokesman said: "The NCA made us and Cheshire Constabulary aware and, upon receipt of a referral from the force, we decided that a directed investigation should be carried out. Four people were arrested in June 2020.

"The investigation was completed in October 2020 and a file of evidence was passed to the Crown Prosecution Service, which has authorised the charges."

Ms Mottram has been charged with four counts of unauthorised access to computer material and one of perverting the course of justice.

Jonathan Kay, 36, of Great Sankey, Warrington, has been charged with perverting the course of justice and two counts of failing to comply with a notice under the Section 49 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

Leah Bennett, 36, of Great Sankey, Warrington, has been charged with perverting the course of justice.

All three are due to appear at Warrington Magistrates’ Court in June.

Operation Venetic was launched after French and Dutch police hacked into the supposedly secure Encrochat messaging system in April 2020.

It was being used by around 50,000 people worldwide, including 9,000 in the UK.

The NCA said it was almost exclusively used by criminals, but evidence has emerged of its use by lawyers, politicians, journalists and celebrities.

More than 1,500 people have been arrested in the UK and hundreds have been charged.

Several defendants are challenging the admissibility of evidence and there is a backlog of crown court cases while preparatory hearings take place.

Several defendants have gone guilty, but a number of cases have also collapsed for evidential reasons.