A POLICE officer who admitted having sex while on duty has been found not guilty of misconduct in a public office.

But PC Lee Haworth told a judge that regardless of the outcome of his four-day trial, his resignation from Lancashire Police was 'in hand'.

The defendant, described by his colleagues as an ‘exemplary’ officer, had earlier admitted two breaches of the data protection act, for which he received a £700 fine.

His barrister told Liverpool Crown Court: "He embarrassed the force, he let himself down and he let his partner down."

But claimed the rapid response officer was still within the patch, would have been able to respond to any emergencies he was called to and he did not take any other breaks of any sort resulting in spending the smae amount of time on visible patrol.

The PC, from Blackburn, had visited Katrina Ianson-Hughes's house in Oswaldtwistle for sex while on duty on April 5 last year, the court heard.

Prosecutors said the pair met during an investigation into an alleged assault on Miss Ianson-Hughes and had exchanged flirtatious’ texts ‘of a sexual nature’ which involved Haworth’s police-issued personal digital assistant (PDA) device.

The dad who was already in a relationship received a 'grade two' call during a visit to the Tennyson Avenue home, the court heard.

Prosecutors said the 39-year-old said he would attend an incident in Rutland Close, Clayton-le-Moors, but despite telling the call handler to mark it on the computer system he was attending, he did not leave Miss Ianson-Hughes's kitchen.

The court heard moments after receiving the call, another officer said they would also go to the incident.

GPS records for Haworth’s police car showed that the car was parked outside her home for about an hour, prosecutors said.

Shortly after there was then a call to a 'grade one' emergency, which Haworth did not volunteer to help at even though the call handler had to speak to a sergeant to rearrange patrols because they were 'struggling for back up', a judge was told.

Haworth told the court he thought there was no need for him to volunteer.

Finally, prosecutors alleged he did not respond immediately to a call for concern about an elderly man in Monk Street, Accrington.

The jury heard evidence from call handlers who said that night was a 'reasonably quiet' Friday and that all demands were met by other police officers.

Haworth also told the judge that while he was having sex with Miss Ianson-Hughes he kept his radio on and had been listening to it in case he might be needed.

Nick Clarke, QC, for the defendant, said: "He was not on visible patrol, it was said, whilst he was at Katrina's, but he was still there within the patrol area and he would have been able to respond to any emergency that he was in fact called to.

"He was not asked to go. If he had have been, there would have been no problems. She would have understood.

"The reality is he was on duty for that shift. He did not take a meal break or break of any sort.

"The total time he was out on visible patrol was the same as anybody else."

Haworth had admitted he was 'in dereliction of his duty', but denied it crossed the threshold for the jury to find him guilty of misconduct.

Mr Clarke said: "There is no doubt Lee Haworth admits that he was in dereliction of his duty when he was visiting Katrina Ianson-Hughes whilst he was on duty.

"He behaved that night in a way which was an embarrassment to the police force."

Before the jury retired to consider its verdict, Mr Clarke reminded the seven men and five women that the case was a criminal trial and not a 'court of morals'.

Mr Clarke added: "It is a shameful incident for him, but he is not to be condemned just for that."

The data protection breaches, include accessing logs for information about a personal matter and sending a copy of a log praising his work to his then partner Annie Heggarty without blanking out the name and address of a suspect.

Sentencing Haworth, Mr Justice Holroyde told him: "The punishment you have brought upon yourself is a heavy one.

"It is serious to misuse the police computer and any police officer who does so should expect to be punished for it.

"There is an obvious need for the confidentiality of the personal data.

"There is a clear obligation on any police officer to use the computer system for legitimate reasons. The serious aspect of these two offences is that it shows a rather cavalier attitude to that important obligation."

Haworth, who refused to comment as he left court, was told he must also pay £500 prosecution costs and a £70 victim surcharge.

Mr Clarke told the judge his client had been treated for depression and that after his medication was increased to the maximum level available, matters 'came to a head' last week.

He said: "Financially, he will lose his income. He will have frozen that part pension to which otherwise he would have been entitled.

"In the short term, his life is uncertain."

Speaking after the hearing, a Lancashire Police spokesman said: "We acknowledge the guilty pleas which have been entered for the data protection act offences and we thank the jury for giving all of these matters their due consideration.

"A decision will now be made as to whether any further disciplinary proceedings are appropriate given all the circumstances."