Friday, September 19, 2008

Police in £5 million overtime 'terror' case urged to buy "holiday in Spain, plasma screen television or a bed at The Savoy, good show, food and booze"

Britain's biggest anti-terrorist investigation was seen by police as an opportunity to pay credit card bills, take luxury holidays and stay at The Savoy Hotel.

Volunteers were told that shifts, believed to be paid at £300 each, would give them time to "read a good book, take up botany or ornithology, study for your sergeant’s exam (or) work out the compound interest on a rest day’s pay".

Emails circulated to officers at Thames Valley Police offered "premium rates" of pay to those "with a raging credit card habit".

One message, titled "108 shopping days to Christmas", sought officers for Saturday shifts and said that the payments "could buy the joy and admiration of your children on Christmas morning... is that not priceless?"

Another presented the goodies that two or three nights work could buy, ranging from a holiday in Spain to a plasma screen television or a "bed at The Savoy, good show, food and booze".

The emails were sent by Sergeant David Bald to source extra manpower for Operation Overt, the inquiry into the alleged 'plot' to blow up transatlantic airliners.

While specialist teams searched King’s Wood and Fennels Wood near High Wycombe, uniformed police were required to stand guard.

Hundreds of officers took up the opportunity over a six-month period.

A report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary said that the diversion of Thames Valley’s resources to Operation Overt had "significantly depleted its operational capacity".

Home Office assessments ranked it the third-worst performing police force in Britain.

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