Police informants were paid £379,015 in the year to April 2010 by Greater Manchester Police alone – enough to pay the salaries of 25 fully qualified nurses.
The revelation follows a freedom of information request but to really make sense of the sum the public needs more information.
How many successful prosecutions came as a direct result of information supplied by an informant? What are other forces spending on informants and who is being spied on?
Request Initiative has decided to investigate. We’ve sent out requests to the 43 constabularies of England and Wales requesting information on their payments to informants for 2011, 2010, 2006 and 2001.
We’ve also asked for several details about the nature of the payments that we’ll elaborate on as the results come in.
Brendan Montague, executive director of Request, said: “During these times of austerity it is alarming to discover how much money one police force can spend in one year on informants.
“In the wake of the Mark Kennedy fiasco the public are rightly very concerned about what kind of information police forces are paying for? How much of taxpayers’ money is being wasted in infiltrating civil rights groups?”
Mark Kennedy went undercover for the police among environmental activists who were planning to occupy a power station, but “came out” and admitted he had intimate relationships with those he was spying upon. He then provided evidence that led to court cases collapsing and convictions being over-turned.
Greater Manchester Police said when releasing the information: “The informant system is one of the important tools at GMP’s disposal, which we use to glean information from the criminal fraternity.”