Revealed: huge bill for police informers

For the first time ever the amount of money that police forces spend on
informants has been released with payouts topping £6m across every police
force.

The PSNI bill for people with information on criminal activity in the past
year was £299,000 ? more than every other force except the Metropolitan and
Greater Manchester.

The figures will reignite the debate over the use of the controversial police
tactics as well as accountability.

A spokeswoman for the PSNI today said that the police force ?does not discuss
intelligence matters?.

But Sinn Fein Policing Board member Daithi McKay MLA (Member of the
Legislative Assembly) said he was concerned about the revelations and added
that more accountability is needed from the PSNI on the issue.

?There is too much focus being placed on gathering intelligence and
information in this way.

?The PSNI want to solve crimes such as drug dealing and anti-social behaviour
which is a big concern for communities, particularly in working class areas,
however they need to gather the confidence of such communities to get them
engaging with police, rather than resorting to tactics, like paying touts,
who will often have their own agenda,? he said.

?Obviously we all know the stories about informers in the north before and
their agendas. It is not the way we want to go forward in terms of community
policing.

?We do not need policing based on paying people off to inform on communities
and gather intelligence on communities. This is something we have raised at
the Policing Board in the past and will continue to do so.?

Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) Policing Board member Dolores Kelly
MLA said the wider question is how the informants are being managed.

?Because of the history of the past in Northern Ireland this is something that
the SDLP is very vigilant on.

?It would be very naive of me to say informants were not used in any
democratic society by the police. It does depend on how then they are
managed and that they do not get a carte blanche in terms of their own
criminal enterprises.?

According to the information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act,
other forces with large bills for ?covert human intelligence sources? ? as
informants are officially termed ? include the Metropolitan Police, which
spent £1.8m in 2008/09, Greater Manchester Police, which spent £329,497 and
West Midlands Police, which spent £291,780.

The Association of Chief Police Officers said the system was ?vital in
bringing offenders to justice?.

Patricia Gallan, Assistant Chief Constable of Merseyside Police and chairman
of ACPO’s National Source Working Group, said the use of informants had
proved essential in cases ranging from serious organised crime to burglary.
?Each force is audited on their use of informants and is subject to a robust
annual inspection by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners to ensure
compliance with the law. They are a valuable source of intelligence and
their use is justifiable and proportionate when set against other police
tactics,? she told BBC 5 Live.

One of the most notorious police touts in Northern Ireland is Mark Haddock,
one-time leading member of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

Haddock worked as an informant for the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)?s
Special Branch during the Troubles.

He was last week charged with the murder of John Harbinson, who was beaten to
death in the north of the city in 1997.

From The Belfast Telegraph

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