A DETECTIVE who tried to pursue sexual relationships with crime victims was only spared an immediate prison sentence because of the coronavirus, a judge has said.

Liverpool Crown Court heard how Stuart Lunt, who worked as a detective constable in Chorley CID, tried to pursue sexual relationships with four female victims of crime between 2017 and 2019.

Lunt, 36, of Greaves Close, Wigan, pleaded guilty to Misconduct in a Public Office earlier this year.

That followed an investigation by Lancashire Police’s Integrity and Anti-Corruption Team and supervised by the Independent Office of Police Conduct.

He was sentenced to 18 months, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 250 hours unpaid work.

Passing sentence, Judge David Aubrey QC said: “You have taken advantage of vulnerable women and exploited each and every one of them, akin to grooming. You have betrayed the badge you were wearing and taken advantage of those most in need.”

Judge Aubrey QC also added that if it was not for the exceptional circumstances currently being experienced this would not have been a suspended sentence.

Speaking after sentencing, Det Chf Insp Jane Webb said: “Firstly I would like to thank and commend the victims in this case for having the bravery to come forward and report these allegations to us. Today’s outcome would not have been possible without them.

“Police officers are expected to adhere to the highest standards of behaviour in both their public and private lives and Stuart Lunt has clearly failed to adhere to those standards.

“He has risked undermining the public’s confidence in the police service as a whole and the fantastic work undertaken every day by the vast majority of our staff.

“We will continue to proactively target malpractice and wrongdoing in Lancashire Constabulary, as we did with this case, to ensure that the communities we serve can have confidence and trust in us.”

Lunt has tendered his resignation but will still be subject to misconduct proceedings.