Informers to get own national pay scale

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The Independent Online
The police have drawn up a national pay scale for rewarding underworld informants to try to stop abuse of the system, which has allowed criminals to earn money for false or worthless information.

Payment will be based on a points system linked to the quality of information, the risk taken by the informant, and the result of the tip-off. More than 150 officers gathered at a conference yesterday to try to improve procedures for dealing with the growing army of informants. With intelligence-led policing now accepted as an effective strategy in tackling crime, chiefs are anxious to achieve uniformity in policy.

The conference, organised by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), heard that the points system had been piloted in Kent and found to work. The conference also heard that almost all police forces in England and Wales now use teenagers to pass them information about juvenile crime.

Roy Penrose, the ACPO spokesman on informants and national co-ordinator of regional crime squads, said there were many potential pitfalls in dealing with young informants and that officers must remember that the "welfare of the child is paramount".

The Kent, Durham and Merseyside forces have drawn up guidelines for the use of informants, including juveniles, which ACPO urged other forces to take on board. Both the Home Office and the Audit Commission have urged forces to make greater use of informants as a cost-effective and efficient way of tackling crime.

Yet research commissioned by ACPO two years ago found the system had become open to abuse. The inquiry found officers lying in court to protect their criminal contacts, secretly using public money to pay them and blocking attempts to prosecute their sources. In one example, an informant stole pounds 2,500 from a bank and then fell out with his accomplice and reported to his police handler. The officer arrested the accomplice, seizing half the stolen money. He allowed the informant to go free, keep his share and even claim a reward.

Now police forces could set up specialist "snout squads" made up exclusively of officers with particular skill in working effectively with informants.