A married police community support officer accused of having sex with women while on duty should not be prosecuted because senior politicians – including former prime minister John Major – were not deemed criminals for their affairs either, a court heard.
Peter Bunyan, an officer with Devon and Cornwall Police, is also alleged to have accessed highly sensitive police data to perform background checks on women and their former partners after so-called "welfare" visits to victims of crime.
He is accused of neglecting his duties by turning his police radio down on shifts before having sex with women, including once at a police neighbourhood office, as well as encouraging one mentally ill woman to send explicit pictures of herself on e-mail to the police station.
Bunyan, a father-of-two, denies 12 counts of misconduct in a public office, taking place over a five-year period in the Camborne and Redruth areas of West Cornwall.
Michael Melville-Shreeve, defending, described his client as "a rat", but told Taunton Crown Court: "The prosecution say if he's off duty having sex with these women: not misconduct. If he's on duty, if he'd stopped off to have tea with them or coffee with them: not misconduct. But if he has sex with them, it is misconduct. Why? How is that?
"He (Bunyan) is a rat. He's a disgrace as a married man. But somehow, my learned friend (prosecution counsel Simon Burns) wants to turn that into criminal misconduct. If it's not serious crime to have tea with someone for half an hour, it is not a crime to have sex consensually with them."
Referring to the affair between the former Conservative PM – who led the country from 1990 to 1997 – and former minister Edwina Currie, Mr Melville-Shreeve said: "What about John Major and Edwina Currie? She's even written a book about it!
"That was a public office. I don't know if it was on duty or off duty. I don't know whether a prime minister is ever off duty. I remember people were raucous about those Conservatives. But it is not crime. Nobody ever called for their prosecution."
Bunyan, 40 and of Carharrack near Camborne, admits having sex with four of the women, but said it was in his own time. All five women said the sex was consensual, although the court heard some of the witnesses had mental health problems.
The trial continues.