Hampshire police have spent almost half a million pounds over the last five years on informants, new figures reveal.
A request made under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that in the five financial years between 2011 and 2017 Hampshire Constabulary paid £478,698.83 to informants in exchange for information.
James Price, campaign manager at the Taxpayers’ Alliance said: ‘It’s a deeply unpleasant thought that taxpayers’ money could be going to criminals, but if it is the only way to stop worse crimes, we should hold our noses and do it.
‘There should be no open cheque-book, however, and police should exhaust other avenues before trying these tactics.’
The average annual spending on informants is £79,783 with the most in a year peaking at £110,618 in the 2011/12 financial year.
As well as financial gain, some informants talk to police with intent to reduce their own prison sentence, to bring down competition or as a public service.
Police say that the use of paid informants is both useful and value for money.
Detective Superintendent Joanne Smith said: ‘The use of members of the public as informants is a well-established tactic to help police gather information in relation to criminals and criminal activity, and Hampshire Constabulary are no exception in using this tactic.
‘The way in which they are used is governed by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act part two and is independently audited by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office.
‘Informants are a very cost-effective asset to investigating and preventing crime, and their work often results in swift outcomes for victims of crime including the recovery of stolen property, and the removal of firearms from criminal hands.
‘I am satisfied that members of the public across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are getting exceptional value for money from the use of this policing tactic.’