Former Surrey Police inspector defends £2,000 payment
A RETIRED Surrey Police Inspector has defended the force's decision to accept money from News Corp subsidiary NDS, claiming funding cuts meant the police were forced to find funds elsewhere.
The force was paid £2,000 by NDS, a technology business which was part-owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp until this month, and this will become a key issue for anti-corruption investigations in the US.
But Mike Ledwidge believes cuts made by the previous Labour Government were so damaging they were left with little choice.
Mr Ledwidge, who retired as an Inspector after 29 years with the police, said: "Surrey Police has been shafted by the Government.
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"It's a low crime area because of the work of the police and as a result the Labour Government cut the funding again and again.
"Every council taxpayer in Surrey has had to fund Surrey Police more than any other area in the country."
He added that Surrey Police were doing what all public bodies had been urged to do – finding outside investment by the private sector.
"It's no surprise that the police are doing this and getting money from the private sector and it doesn't surprise me that they're doing it," he said.
A spokesperson for Surrey police confirmed that the £2,000 had been received by NDS in 2000 but denied any wrong-doing had taken place and said an internal investigation was now underway.
NDS said the payment ordered by its security chief Len Withall – a former Detective Chief Inspector at Surrey Police – following "some work", was a "one-off charitable donation".
Payments to police by private companies are not illegal, but BBC's Panorama Programme accused NDS of sabotaging News Corp's rival ITV Digital through hacking, something News Corp and NDS strongly deny.
In a statement Surrey Police said: "Following a review of our records, Surrey Police can confirm a payment of £2,000 from NDS Security Department was received in 2000.
"VAT inspection records show that this money was received as sponsorship for equipment including lap-top computers.
"At the time staff were encouraged to consider sponsorship opportunities and a total of 46,700 was recorded by the force that year as being received as sponsorship from a range of companies including gas and water suppliers and town councils."
Mr Ledwidge believes the force was suffering from the actions of politicians over the last 20 years, saying more funding cuts would just hamper the police's ability to work in the community and gather the local knowledge they need to do their jobs.
Bradley Simon, a former lawyer at the US Department of Justice, was reported as saying that the US authorities would be interested in the payment.
"The DoJ is focused on payments to officials," he said. "The DoJ feels a lot of pressure to make cases when there is a lot of scrutiny."