Welsh police spend £590k on informers over five years

Police car

Police forces in Wales paid out more than £590,000 to informants over the last five years, figures obtained by BBC Radio 5 live have shown.

Spending by South Wales Police accounted for more than half of that figure totalling £345,832 from 2011-16.

The data for forces in England and Wales was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and North Wales Police spent £38,500 - the lowest overall.

A Home Office spokesman said it was "an operational matter for police".

Informants can get anything from a few pounds for basic information, up to several thousand pounds for helping break up organised crime.

Police forces are audited on their use of informants and are inspected annually by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners to ensure they are not breaking the law.

Welsh spending

  • Dyfed-Powys Police = £66,435
  • Gwent Police = £140,755
  • North Wales Police = £38,539.51
  • South Wales Police = £345,832.69

There are no statistics available to show how many convictions have come as a result of paying informants.

Gwent Police and Dyfed-Powys Police spent £140,000 and £66,000 respectively over the five years.

The Metropolitan Police topped the overall list spending £5.2m, while Kent and West Midlands forces each spent more than £1m.

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) defended the practice of paying informants - or covert human intelligence sources as they are officially known.

Deputy Chief Constable Roger Bannister, the council's lead on the issue, said: "The intelligence provided helps to prevent and solve the most serious of crimes and is vital in bringing offenders to justice through the courts."

But Neil Wood, who worked as an undercover police officer and ran many informants, told Radio 5 live the tactic has its limitations when it comes to drugs.

"Nobody wants to inform on the drug lords because of fears of violent reprisals, so it's only the low-lying fruit that gets caught out - and the trade continues regardless.

"Nobody can call that effective. Overall it does little to bring down the level of overall crime."

Dyfed-Powys and South Wales Police said they had nothing to add to the NPCC statement. The other two Welsh forces have been asked to comment.

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