Police chief defends expenses claims

SUFFOLK'S chief constable today defended spending more than £6,000 of tax payers' money on his expenses account.Alistair McWhirter's said the cash was used to "do his job" and for the benefit of the county's force.

SUFFOLK'S chief constable today defended spending more than £6,000 of tax payers' money on his expenses account.

Alistair McWhirter's said the cash was used to "do his job" and for the benefit of the county's force.

His claims included a £2,800 trip to Sierra Leone and a £250 flight home from his annual holiday to attend an urgent meeting in Suffolk.

The figures were released yesterday for the first time under the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr McWhirter, who was appointed in 2003, is the national spokesperson on rural policing issues on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo).

He said the majority of the money was spent on travelling expenses to and from meetings around the UK, including a number in London.

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He said: "People sometimes get the impression you're claiming for money you haven't spent. But it's all money I've had to pay out. I'm open about because we're a public service.

"I feel the expenses, the cost of me doing my job, are fairly standard and not excessive.

"Travel is essential to my job. I'm not only working in Suffolk. I'm involved at a national level, which helps police in Suffolk."

Mr McWhirter said he was asked to visit Sierra Leone to help with the rebuilding of law and order in the war-ravaged country.

He joined one of Suffolk's chief inspectors, Mike Holdsworth, who was deputy in charge of the UN policing mission in the country.

Mr McWhirter said he was asked to go out to check the progress of the work.

He was also called back early from an annual holiday in Spain, in August, to take a £250 flight to attend a meeting on the force's strategic review.

He said: "There was an urgent meeting as part of the review. I wanted to ensure I was present and I came back that day, half way through my holiday.

"If you don't do it people will criticise and if you do they will as well."

Other expenses claimed included a breakfast meeting with Suffolk Chamber of Commerce (£58), a central government justice and police dinner (£93) and an Acpo spring conference (£590).

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