Undercover police officers whose jobs often entail making contact with informers at all hours of the day and night have had their right to fair overtime payments for the out-of-hours work they put in recognised by the Court of Appeal.
Officers engaged in ‘handling’ informers were only rostered to work during normal office hours. They were not required to sit at home and await calls during their time off. However, they could be contacted at any time via a secure automated system and, due to the nature of crime and the chaotic lifestyle of many of their charges, often had to telephone informers outside ordinary working hours.
Three retired officers argued successfully that, each time that they had to make out-of-hours contact with an informer, they were entitled to be paid four hours of overtime. The chief constable of the relevant force challenged that decision and pointed out that such calls often took only a matter of a few minutes.
In dismissing his appeal, however, the Court found that the officers were recalled to duty each time that they were required to contact an informer outside their rostered hours. Noting that the officers were ‘office holders’, rather than employees, and it was the Home Secretary who laid down their terms of service, the Court found that their interpretation of the Police Regulations was the right one.