A police officer from Wijk bij Duurstede appeared in court in Utrecht on Friday accused of blackmailing gay men whose cars had been spotted close to a popular cruising zone.
The man is accused of sending 37 letters to the owners of cars spotted parked close to the zones on the A1 and A27. He threatened his victims with disclosure unless they paid up €1,000, local broadcaster RTV Utrecht said.
The suspect is said to have used a colleague’s computer to find out about the car owners in the police registration system. He is known to have checked out information about 80 cars.
The investigation started in May 2015 when the police noticed a surge in complaints from men who said they were being blackmailed after visiting a cruising zone. A further 20 men responded to an appeal for other victims to come forward.
Just one victim was in court on Friday, which, the public prosecutor said, highlighted the sensitivity of the case.
The police officer who was arrested in March 2016 and suspended from his job has said he is sorry for his actions and that he failed to oversee the consequences. The former officer faces two years in jail, six months suspended.