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Last Updated: Friday, 30 January, 2004, 16:59 GMT
MP calls for police inquiry
Pc Stuart Elford
Stuart Elford resigned from the police in December 2003
A South West MP is calling for the Home Secretary to investigate the case of a Plymouth police officer who was suspended on full pay for nearly two years.

Pc Stuart Elford was a media spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police until he was suspended in March 2002 for alleged offences relating to the disclosure of information to journalists.

South West Devon MP Gary Streeter has branded the investigation against Pc Elford, which is believed to have cost taxpayers between 200,000 and 400,000, a huge waste of taxpayers' money.

Devon and Cornwall Police said it "strongly and robustly" defended its decision to investigate, but that the case was dropped because it was not deemed to be in the public interest.

Government agencies are over-reacting to any trivial complaint
Gary Streeter MP
When first suspended, Stuart Elford was told the matter would be sorted out within six weeks.

No criminal charges were brought against Pc Elford, who resigned in December 2003 after serving in the force for 17 years, but the Police Complaints Authority announced he would face disciplinary charges.

A hearing was due to take place this month.

Stuart Elford said: "I don't want to sound like a disgruntled ex-employee just banging on about his treatment at the hands of a former employer.

"But there are some very serious issues surrounding this case, not least the terrible waste of taxpayers' money, the accountability of the force for its actions, and the welfare issues of other officers who have been put in this situation in the past and, no doubt, will be again in the future unless the situation is changed."

'Trivial complaint'

The Police Federation is also concerned about the cost of suspending officers and said that 202 officers across the country were under suspension on one day in August 2003.

Pc Stephen Pierce of the federation said: "We looked at how long they were suspended for, and it turned out to be 181 man-years, which in hard cash to taxpayers' is about 7.3m."

Now Conservative MP Gary Streeter has asked the Home Secretary to look at the investigation of Pc Elford.

He said: "I'm very angry and concerned about this case. It's just one example of, I think, where government agencies are over-reacting to any trivial complaint, and it's costing us a fortune."

Devon and Cornwall Police said the costs of the case would be made public, but the claims of between 200,000 and 400,000 had been "wildly exaggerated".

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