A STRESSED police constable who did not bother to investigate a string of theft offences and faked statements has been jailed for six months today.

A judge told 54-year-old ex-soldier Peter Broderick: "For four and a half months you let down the Merseyside police and the public in a way which defies belief."

Broderick not only failed to investigate seven theft offences properly, he recorded false information about them, created fictitious statements in the names of victims and witnesses, rather than taking statements, and forged signatures.

In two of the offences the suspects had actually been named and there was CCTV footage.

His misconduct only came to light when one of the thieves returned to one of the shops and the officer called to the scene was told that Broderick was apparently investigating the earlier offence.

"The crimes may have been low level crimes but to their victims they were important and in each case you committed a gross breach of trust in your capacity as investigator," said Judge Clement Goldstone, QC, the Recorder of Liverpool.

He said that he accepted Broderick had not committed the offences for personal gain but to alleviate his work pressure but he could have told his superiors about the stress.

"Instead you allowed your stoical military background to govern your emotions, you kept soldering on."

The judge said that Broderick, who had "an exemplary character both in the police and Army", had not 'scuppered' police operations - because they did not even get off the ground.

"Quite apart from the fact that the victims of the crimes feel understandably let down by the police, it is an opinion widely held by some members of the public that the police do not care and cannot be bothered.

"The overwhelming majority of police officers do care and can be bothered and are bothered, but your conduct, repeated as it was, simply reinforces that opinion and unfortunately serves to lower the morale of your colleagues."

Judge Goldstone told grey-haired Broderick: "I accept your personal health issues made it difficult to cope with your stresses at work but it did not justify crossing the line as you deliberately and repeatedly did to ease your work load at the expense of the public interest."

Broderick, of Canterbury Road, Poulton, Wallasey, initially denied his behaviour but during an internal misconduct hearing admitted what he had done.

He pleaded guilty to seven offences of misconduct in public office.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that he had been a Merseyside police officer for 18 years "serving with great distinction and on occasion bravery" until committing the offences between April and August last year.

Keith Sutton, prosecuting, told how Broderick, who had been based with a 'planned and demand team' at Birkenhead to investigate low level crimes, was the officer assigned to shoplifting offences at the Co-op in Wallasey, Cash Converters in Birkenhead; B & Q in Wallasey; McColls in Prenton; Tesco’s at Bidston; Wilkinson’s in Birkenhead and the theft of a bicycle from Arrowe Park Hospital.

At the McColls theft the offender had been identified by the shop manager but Broderick did not make any effort to apprehend him.

By the time Broderick's misconduct came to light in August the culprit had been sentenced for another offence and it was not thought in the public interest to charge him with the earlier offence.

After Broderick had closed the theft case from Wilkinson's "fortuitously for the public and the integrity of Merseyside police" the shoplifter returned to steal again and Broderick’s inaction came to light.

Judge Goldstone told Broderick, who showed no emotion: "I accept your remorse and regret have been total and genuine but it does however remain the fact that it was your detection which brought this course of conduct to an end."

The court heard that at the time Broderick was suffering from anxiety and depression and had erroneously believed he was suffering from bowel cancer and was looking after his injured wife.