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Public officials still offered thousands of pounds for scoops

Ex-police surveillance officer who had access to No 10 exposed in ‘bribes offer’

You can earn yourself good cash now by calling… 24 hours a day and remember, nobody ever needs to know it was you that told us!

Newspics website

Police and other public officials are still being offered thousands of pounds for information about the private lives of prominent people, Exaro can reveal.

The offer comes from an agency run by a former forensics and surveillance officer for Scotland Yard who carried out anti-terrorism duties during his 10-year police career.

As the picture taken from his Facebook page shows, Matt Sprake even had access at one time in his police job to the cabinet room in 10 Downing Street in the 1990’s. He is photographed posing at the cabinet table, in the prime minister’s chair.

Civil servants and other officials such as probation and prison officers are being targeted by the former Metropolitan Police officer.

This is despite the current police investigation into the alleged bribing of public officials by journalists, and the Leveson inquiry into newspaper practices. Police made three more arrests only today in their investigation into bribes allegedly paid to officials for information.

Officials are told: “All sorts of people have been paid thousands of pounds by us for giving information that leads to a picture being sold or a story being written, are you a doorman, police worker, civil servant, probation officer, prison officer, nurse? Make some extra money without anyone ever knowing...”

Exaro’s disclosures on what seems to be a brazen attempt to lure public officials into leaking information in return for cash have already raised eyebrows at the Leveson inquiry.

A spokesman for the inquiry said: “We do not comment on evidence to the inquiry. However, we shall be more than happy to receive any information that you have on this matter.”

Sprake, joint owner of NewsPics, a photographic and surveillance agency based in Shenfield, Essex, offers four-figure sums for scoops through his website, at least, at the time of publication.

The agency website has endorsements from the picture desk of The People, the red-top Sunday tabloid, OK magazine, the celebrity title, and the Press Association, the national news agency.

In a section headed “news exclusives”, the agency tempts public officials to provide details of “a scandal” or, “where a prominent person is living or what they get up to,” or, “a celebrity having an affair.”

“You can earn yourself good cash now by calling… 24 hours a day and remember, nobody ever needs to know it was you that told us!”

Sprake runs the agency with his wife, Marion, a banker who has been working for Barclays. He claims to have a network of 35 photographers, and a discreet studio “just 20 minutes from the City of London” for celebrity client portraits.

Part of his agency’s website is devoted to its “surveillance photography”, offering a menu of services, including “covert foot follows”, “covert vehicle follows” and ”remote technical surveillance”.

“You can utilise the very same skills that are used by the security services and the police,” clients are promised.

“Our surveillance team has worked for and been trained by various police and government surveillance agencies within the UK. If you need it photographed without being seen, we are your experts.”

When contacted by Exaro, Sprake defended himself, saying that he had never paid a police officer or “anyone in authority” for information.

He said that he had wanted to remove the wording discovered by Exaro, but was unable to do so because the website was “broken”.

“I wish I could change this website,” he said. “It was by three different companies and when one of them went bust, we could not change the website. It was a pain.”

Scotland Yard has so far arrested and questioned 39 people over allegations that journalists paid ‘bribes’ to police and other public officials.

Sprake also takes pictures of semi-naked women for adult websites. On one site, UK Adult Guide, he advertises “free modelling portfolios and help with setting up UK adult websites.”

Update 4 July 2012: Within hours of this story breaking, NewsPics pulled its entire website and put in place a holding page.

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