- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 18, 2002

LONDON Prime Minister Tony Blair's beleaguered administration has suffered another setback with the disclosure of an internal report charging that the war against crime in Britain is being damaged by corrupt police officers.

The Home Office report, leaked to journalists, cited the problem of "information compromise," in which detectives and uniformed officers pass on police secrets to the underworld, resulting in failed operations, intimidation of witnesses and the exposure of informants.

The damaging document surfaced even as a report by the Audit Commission, the government's spending watchdog, reported that unnecessary delays and court adjournments were wasting about $120 million a year and resulting in more than 60,000 cases being dropped when they did get to court.

Meanwhile the Home Office roughly equivalent to the U.S. Justice Department conceded that statistics to be released next month will show the largest increase in crime in a decade and the biggest since Mr. Blair's Labor Party gained power five years ago.

The brace of reports and the forecast of unflattering crime figures represents more bad news for a government that had made war against crime a key plank in its election platform, and comes at a time when the Blair administration is under some of the heaviest fire it has taken since assuming office.

Ministers have been accused of falsehoods and "spinning" the state of the nation's rail system and its health service; the government has been accused of accepting political donations under questionable circumstances; and the prime minister himself is fighting accusations that he tried to "muscle in" on the queen mother's funeral to center more attention on himself.

Charges of police wrongdoing were contained in a Home Office document that said "information compromise" has replaced "traditional" corruption.

Joel Miller, the report's author, told the Daily Telegraph newspaper that investigators had found "a range of other criminality and misconduct in all forces. This commonly involves the dealing of recreational drugs."

He added that "other examples include fraud; theft; domestic violence; spurious claims to sick leave; as well as sexist, racist or homophobic behavior."

Although Mr. Miller said the report shows corruption was limited "to a small minority of staff," he said examples "cover a range" of activities including:

•Using their power to obtain money or sexual favors.

•Conspiring with criminals to commit crimes and carry out thefts.

•Using their position within the organization to undermine proceedings against criminals.

The report blamed the problems, which often begin in officers' private lives, on "easy access to information, inadequate supervision, relationships with informants or criminals, and the targeting of police staff by organized crime."

The Audit Commission's report, "The Road to Injustice," said that of 5.2 million offenses reported to police during 2001, only 326,000 prison sentences were handed down by the courts. It added that "cases are dropping out of the system unnecessarily, allowing offenders to evade justice."

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