A Croydon Council officer accused of misusing work computer systems on behalf of a Metropolitan Police sergeant in a dispute over a dodgy second-hand car believed it was “not for me to question requests from the police”.

Alan O’Brien, 49, told Southwark Crown Court it was “not unusual” for former New Addington police community support officer (PCSO) Paul Potter to ask him to run a background check on Anthony Everest in June 2013.

Two months earlier Mr Potter, 39, learned a Mitsubishi car he had bought from Mr Everest the previous year was in fact a “cut and shut” – two vehicles joined together – after receiving a complaint from the car’s new owner, the jury heard this week.

After asking colleagues at the council to carry out the Experian check on Mr Everest, Mr O’Brien sent a scanned copy of the report to Mr Potter’s private email.

Both Mr Potter and Mr O’Brien, a former anti-social behaviour officer at Croydon Council, are on trial accused of breaching the Data Protection Act.

RELATED: Met police officer and Croydon Council officer 'misused work computers to dig up dirt in dispute over dodgy second-hand car'

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

Giving evidence today, Mr O’Brien, who “regularly met” with Mr Potter to discuss anti-social behaviour issues, said he received requests for information about individuals from police officers “almost daily”

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?

Mr O’Brien, of Sittingbourne, Kent, recalled a conversation at New Addington police station in which the pair were “talking about the vehicle, and in some way shape or form it came up that [the council] traced people's address histories to find where they have been or where they were.

"If I had known the importance of that conversation three years ago, I would have written it down.”

The jury 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 vehicle 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.

“I was quite clear this was for the purpose of preventing or tackling crime. It was to assist with an investigation by a police officer.

“It’s not for me to question the request from police… there was no process for me to question the requests from police.”

As well as the background check, Mr Potter used police systems to enquire about the registration of a Vauxhall van owned by Mr Everest in November 2013 – the month he contacted the Police Federation asking for support with the case, the jury heard.

The jury also 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.”

Both men deny a charge of obtaining or disclosing personal information.

Mr Potter also denies four counts of breaching the Computer Misuse Act.

The trial continues.

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