Suffolk: Police payout almost £400,000 in compensation claims in four years

Suffolk Constabulary. Suffolk Constabulary.

Monday, December 30, 2013
10:32 AM

A police boss has demanded answers after it was revealed incidents involving officers from Suffolk Constabulary have seen almost £400,000 paid out in compensation claims.

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The money was paid to staff and members of the public between January 1, 2010 and October this year, according to figures revealed in a Freedom of Information request submitted by the East Anglian Daily Times.

The payouts, which total £394,600, range from mistakes like losing or damaging property through to more serious allegations such as false imprisonment and assault.

However the number of claims and overall payout has declined sharply, with just over £16,500 spent up to October this year, compared to £214,383 for the whole of 2010.

Last night Tim Passmore, Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner, said he would investigate the issue and ensure the force is not being treated as a “soft touch”.

He said: “I am quite surprised about some of the very high levels of payout. I don’t know the details, but I need to be convinced that this is good value for taxpayers’ money.

“One of the things I hope I’ve tried to do is make sure the constabulary has an unrelenting focus on how the money is spent. It belongs to the taxpayer and you’ve got be very careful with how you spend other people’s money.

“We’ve got to make sure the public sector is doing things properly and fairly, but also that we’re not being seen as a soft touch.”

The bill includes around £180,000 for mistakes by officers behind the wheel.

Other claims came after police forced entry into the wrong places and police dogs attacked and injured another dog.

In 2010, £17,526 was awarded to a police driver who was injured due to a faulty seatbelt. An officer who lost his glasses while chasing a suspect was given £60.

Another employee was given £2,300 after injuring their hand due to a faulty back door. A member of the public was given £15 after their clothes were damaged by bleach.

Someone was awarded £378 after an officer trampled soil into their carpet, while another claim saw £40 awarded after a sniffer dog damaged an ornament. Someone else was given £20 after an officer broke their door when shutting it.

Jonathan Isaby, political director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers want to know that the police are spending their money on frontline policing and keeping us safe, not settling spurious claims.

A spokesman from Suffolk Constabulary said: “Any request for compensation, made by a member of the public or by a member of police staff, is taken extremely seriously and each case is considered in relation to its own circumstances.

“The very nature of policing can mean that incidents attended by officers can involve pursuit or confrontation, which can potentially result in damage or accidents.

“Every effort is made to reduce these instances, including risk management training with new officers, but incidents can be inevitable in the course of ensuring that communities are kept safe and those suspected of criminal activity are detained.

“The Constabulary considers any lessons learned from accidents and incidents and where appropriate and necessary, improvements are put in place to maintain and enhance good health and safety practices.” 
Although the number of accidents is reducing, claims can take months to process and some are still outstanding from this year.

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