- The funds are used during inquiries into sex abuse and paedophile conspiracies
- A police chief warned that the resources are often taken from frontline budgets
- Details of the extraordinary cost comes as top officers warn of strained budgets
- Critics have questioned whether some of the historic inquiries are necessary
Police are spending £81million a year on historic investigations, new figures revealed yesterday.
The money is being used during inquiries into sex abuse, paedophile conspiracies, undercover policing and the Hillsborough tragedy.
There are 875 officers – the equivalent of the entire Warwickshire force – plus another 500 civilian staff, dedicated to raking over the past.
One police chief warned that the resources are often taken from frontline budgets, suggesting everyday policing is being stretched even further.
There are 875 officers – the equivalent of the entire Warwickshire force – plus another 500 civilian staff, dedicated to raking over the past
Details of the extraordinary cost comes as top officers warn the Government that strained budgets mean they are struggling to protect the public.
They are pleading for another £440million to stop ‘exposing gaps in the protection of the public’ as they face losing thousands more officers.
But critics have questioned whether some of the historic inquiries, particularly those involving dead suspects, are necessary.
Wiltshire Police struggled to justify its two-year £1.2m inquiry into often outlandish allegations against former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath
Scotland Yard is accused of spending millions investigating the claims of a fantasist who claimed he was the victim of an Establishment sex ring.
And Wiltshire Police struggled to justify its two-year £1.2m inquiry into often outlandish allegations against former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath.
The new figures were uncovered by a series of requests under the Freedom of Information Act by Police Oracle.
It found that across 43 UK forces, a total estimated cost of £80.7million was spent last year on inquiries into historic matters.
The actual figure is likely to be much higher as some forces did not include equipment or other resources. Four failed to provide any information.
The research also uncovered that at least 1,394 personnel, including 875 warranted officers, are spending most of their time on these inquiries.
Almost half of the total cost fell on just three forces and one agency – the Metropolitan Police, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Greater Manchester Police and the National Crime Agency.
Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead recently told senior colleagues that the Rotherham abuse inquiry and Hillsborough football tragedy probe had tested forces.
But the senior officer, who runs a national police resources co-ordination centre, defended the resources spent on historic matters.
He said: ‘We have seen a substantial increase in police demand in the past several years, most noticeably with the increasing threat from terrorism and an increase in complex crimes such as fraud.
‘This is at a time when savings are having to be made due to a real-term cut in government funding and with officer numbers at their lowest level since 1985.
‘We are working to deal with this increased demand while also undertaking substantial work into non-recent investigations, such as those on child sexual abuse.
‘They require a major investment of resources and these will often come from other areas of policing.’
The money is being used during inquiries into sex abuse, paedophile conspiracies, undercover policing and the Hillsborough tragedy
Chief constables have faced criticism for pouring time and money into investigations into dead suspects and sometimes long-forgotten causes.
Lord Lawson has accused them of ‘complaining’ too much about spending cuts while chasing ‘unsubstantiated’ historic sex abuse claims.
The Tory former Chancellor called on forces to focus their resources on tackling the urgent security needs of today.
‘Look at how much the police is spending now on chasing up often unsubstantiated accusations of historic sex abuse,’ he said.
‘That’s got nothing to do with security. Those resources should be put where the need is.’
The Metropolitan Police’s Operation Yewtree, which investigated abuse by Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris, David Lee Travis and others, cost £1.8million in its first year alone.
Meanwhile, the Scotland Yard inquiry into lurid allegations of a VIP Westminster paedophile ring cost taxpayers an estimated £3.4million.
Rick Muir, of the Police Foundation think-tank, suggested chief officers need better support when they decide whether to pursue some inquiries.
‘You always have to weigh up different factors such as if the victim is still alive and whether the alleged perpetrator poses ongoing risk,’ he said.
‘I think there should be more comprehensive guidance in place about decisions on when to launch historic investigations.’