29/07/2009

NI Informant Payouts Revealed

Northern Ireland police informers were paid £299,000 during the last financial year, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

The BBC, who submitted the request, learned that across the UK, police forces had handed out more than £6m for information on criminal activity while NI pay-outs ranked the third largest behind the £1.86m spent by Metropolitan Police in London, and Greater Manchester Police's £329,497 payment for information.

According to the Association of Chief Police Officers, giving cash for details on crimes is "vital in bringing offenders to justice".

A specific breakdown of how the money is distributed, or what activity is monitored, has not been made public, however, one security source told the BBC informers can earn anything from £50 and £2,000 in exchange for intelligence.

In some cases £100,000 has been paid for vital information, the former superintendent said.

Several other police forces in the UK paid thousands of pounds on "covert human intelligence sources", among them West Midlands Police, which spent £291,780 in 2008/9; Strathclyde, which handed over £221,598.24; and Northumbria, whose bill was 191,652.56.

The median figure for payouts by Kent Constabulary since 2001/2 was £222,578.
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Police can also offer criminal informants potentially reduced jail terms if they cooperate with investigations.

Merseyside Assistant Chief Constable Patricia Gallan, who also chairs the ACPO's National Source Working Group, said: "They [informants] are a valuable source of intelligence and their use is justifiable and proportionate when set against other police tactics."

Commenting on the news this afternoon, an NI Policing Board spokesman said: "The whole area of intelligence and how it is operated and managed is of critical importance to securing public confidence.

"The policy and procedure for the authorisation and use of Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) has been subject to ongoing scrutiny by the Policing Board," he said, noting that scrutiny of the use of covert human intelligence is provided for in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and the PSNI are subject to review by the Chief Surveillance Commissioner each year.

"The Board's Human Rights Advisor has full access to the reports of the Surveillance Commissioner and the PSNI response and a detailed assessment of police compliance is published in the Board's human rights annual reports," he continued, noting that the costs associated with CHIS will be raised with the Chief Constable at the Board meeting of 3 September."

(PR/JM)

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