A former Sydney police officer who accessed intimate photos on the phone of a woman he had arrested and shared them on social media has been spared jail time.
Steven Albee, 29, pleaded guilty last year to using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend after the incident in 2017 which involved uploading photos of the woman’s genitals to a Facebook chat group shared with four colleagues.
Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson in Downing Centre local court on Tuesday convicted Albee and imposed the commonwealth equivalent of a two-year good behaviour bond, noting she would have sent him to jail if not for a confidential letter from the police “in relation to matters of assistance”.
“That is a very important document because, apart from that, I would have been looking at imposing a custodial sentence,” she said. His recognisance release order carries a $1,000 fine.
Albee arrived at court carrying an empty plastic bag and made a dramatic exit in the front of an ambulance with a newspaper over his face. He was too unwell to stand for the entirety of his sentence.
The 29-year-old was a constable working in western Sydney when he arrested his female victim during a traffic stop for refusing a roadside drug test, according to the agreed facts.
He seized her phone and had it analysed, using investigative software. The phone contained three photos of the woman’s vagina and one of her partner’s penis and torso.
Albee uploaded two of the photos to the Facebook chat group, telling its members they depicted the woman and came from her phone.
She had been upset and embarrassed when she learned that the photos intended for her and her partner were seen by other people, court documents state.
The prosecutor Karthigeyan Kanagasabapathy submitted that Albee, as a then serving police officer, had used his powers and available resources “flagrantly contrary” to community expectations.
Outside court, the solicitor Warwick Anderson said Albee was “horrified”, remorseful and had apologised to his victims. “He’s lost his career, he’s paid a very, very heavy price,” Anderson said.
“He’s got some serious medical problems that predate this issue and … but for having to come to court today, he’d be at home or in hospital.
“[I] think he got out of a sick bed to be here, as you can see, he’s quite ill.”
Albee was suspended with pay upon his arrest but the court on Tuesday heard that he has since resigned from the police force.