A West Yorkshire Police officer who ‘chanced his arm’ by twice persuading his wife to take his speeding points has been locked up for six months.
Mark Hinchliffe, a former Safer Schools Officer, ‘did it once, got away with it and was emboldened to do it again,’ the judge jailing him said today.
His wife, Lisa Hinchliffe, a former West Yorkshire Police staff member, was spared an immediate custodial sentence as an act of mercy for the couple’s two children.
Mark Hinchliffe, 43, and Lisa Hinchliffe, 38, who live at an address in the Bradford postcode area, pleaded guilty at Bradford Crown Court last year to two offences.
Each admitted doing an act tending or intended to pervert the course of public justice on or about July 20, 2021, by falsely declaring to West Yorkshire Police that on April 30, 2021, Lisa Hinchliffe was driving a car that was speeding.
They further pleaded guilty to a similar offense on August 11, 2021, when Lisa Hinchliffe said she was driving a car that was speeding on June 1 that year.
Prosecutor Richard Walters said that Mark Hinchliffe had been a serving police officer for 18 years at the time. He was a Safer Schools Officer in Leeds but was suspended and had since resigned from the force.
His wife had been a civilian employee of West Yorkshire Police for 17 years. She too had since resigned.
Mr Walters said the first speeding offense happened at 6.25pm on April 30, 2021, when a VW Passat was doing 37mph in a 30 zone in Morley.
Lisa Hinchliffe was sent a Notice of Intended Prosecution and said she was the driver.
Then, at 4.26pm on June 1 that year, a Renault Megane, also registered to the couple, was caught on the same camera doing 36 mph Lisa Hinchliffe again said she was driving and paid a fixed penalty fine.
Mr. Walters said that images of the vehicles showed that a man was driving. An investigation was started by the Police Professional Standards Bureau leading to the couple’s arrests and their phones being seized.
Messages were found about speeding offences, with Lisa Hinchliffe saying that if her husband lost his license they ‘were screwed.’ The court heard that he had five points on his license and was concerned that he might not be able to do his job visiting schools if he couldn’t drive.
Mark Hinchliffe lied when questioned, saying his wife was driving in April. He claimed he had made ‘an honest mistake’ the second time.
Lisa Hinchliffe made no comment when interviewed.
Sarah Barlow, for Mark Hinchliffe, said he felt very keenly about what he had done and the effect his behavior would have on his family and two children.
As a Safer Schools Officer, he had let down the children he worked with.
He was a man of previous exemplary good character who also let everyone down who had high expectations of him.
Miss Barlow said the offending was not sophisticated and took place over a relatively short period.
“Every police officer’s worst fear is a custodial sentence,” she said, urging the court to keep the sentence as short as possible.
Allan Armbrister, for Lisa Hinchliffe, said she was employed by the police from the age of 21 but she wasn’t a police officer. Before this, she was an honest hardworking woman who had thrown everything away.
Serious family illness had impacted her decision-making at the time.
The question was whether jailing both of them would impact too severely on the children, Mr. Armbrister said.
Judge Jonathan Rose said that perverting the course of justice undermined faith in the justice system and encouraged those who would be easily persuaded to try it on to do so.
The couple thought they could get away with it: a respected serving police officer and a loving mother also employed by the police service.
Mark Hinchliffe feared he might be disqualified, so ‘why not chance your arm’ and let your wife take the points, Judge Rose said.
Lisa Hinchliffe looked into it with great care before taking a speeding course and then a fine and points for her husband.
Mark Hinchliffe had damaged the police force by his actions and an immediate prison sentence would follow. “You did it once, got away with it and were emboldened to do it again,” Judge Rose said.
Mark Hinchliffe was jailed for six months and banned from driving for 15 months.
Lisa Hinchliffe was an excellent and caring mother laboring under the difficulties of her father’s tragic illness. She was ‘the junior partner’ in the deception and not a serving police officer, Judge Rose said.
She was sentenced to four months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with 200 hours of unpaid work and banned from driving for 12 weeks.