Anti-terror officer 'used force credit card in sex shop'

A debt-ridden anti-terrorist squad officer squandered thousands of pounds of taxpayers' cash in sex shops and on holidays and clothing, a court heard today.

In fact Matthew Washington, 37, began misusing his Met-issued Amex credit card almost as soon as he got it, it was claimed.

London's Southwark Crown Court was told he first spent more than £350 on clothes from Next, T M Lewin and Marks & Spencer.

Stephen Winberg, prosecuting, said over the next 15 months the detective constable "completely disregarded" police regulations which clearly stated he could use the card only for "travel and subsistence purposes".

"The total expenditure from July, August 2006 to September 2007 was £19,237.95, of which at least approximately £12,500 was unauthorised expenditure," the barrister alleged.

"Of this some £7,000 was withdrawn in cash."

He said apart from clothing the officer allegedly misused the card "to fund holidays, for example to Euro Disney, travel, food shopping and personal expenses

"Particularly indicative of this, I am afraid, is the purchase of five items ... from a sex shop in Soho.

"The question I pose to you on the Crown's behalf and you may pose in due course, members of the jury, is what part of his job description did Mr Washington at the time - Dc Washington as he then was - think he was fulfilling by using the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) card in a sex shop in Soho?

"The Crown are not saying there is anything wrong going to a sex shop, but you do not use a card given by your employers for travel and subsistence purposes."

The barrister continued: "It really shows how far Mr Washington was prepared to go. Whatever may be said to you about his record keeping, the guidelines or whether he read them properly, surely no-one would need to know the guidelines to know an MPS-produced card should not be used for such purposes."

Washington, whose address or photograph cannot be published for legal reasons, denies one count of misconduct in public office between July 1 2006 and October 5 the following year.

Opening what is expected to be a four-day trial, Mr Winberg told the court the Met struck a deal with American Express to supply certain officers with a corporate charge card.

"The reason ... was that previously officers had had to pay bills for accommodation and travel and so on and claim the money back, and this had led to delay and some officers being out of pocket."

Washington, he said, duly applied for a card and signed a declaration acknowledging it was to be used only in connection with his job.

Like others, counsel insisted, he would have been aware all expenditure had to be properly "reconciled" and backed up by receipts.

His application was duly approved and a card sent to him in July 2006.

"He first used the Amex card on August 9, and the Crown say it is apparent from records of its use that right from the outset he was using the card in complete disregard of the regulations."

The barrister claimed from then until his arrest, the defendant carried out no "card reconciliation whatsoever".

When first interviewed, Washington read out a prepared statement explaining that during the period covered by the indictment he had been engaged in "very sensitive and high-profile investigations with periods away from home, working very long hours with not much personal time".

But that, said counsel, was something the Crown was not "wholly" prepared to accept.

The detective also mentioned "he had been through an upsetting divorce and his son had had cancer which had weighed heavily on his mind and this had caused him to lose track of his expenses".

He went on to explain he could not recall ever seeing or signing the card regulations, although it was "his understanding" he could use it for private expenditure provided he paid the money back.

"He said he couldn't say how he got this view but it was probably reinforced by conversations with fellow officers."

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