The type of investigation that yesterday secured the conviction for fraud of Jim McCormick comes along only once, at best, in most police officers’ careers.
Operation Venus was well named, because deadly explosions in Baghdad, the efficiency or otherwise of bomb detectors supposedly able to thwart them and a convoluted international money trail are a planet away from most matters investigated by Avon and Somerset Police detectives.
It is a fine testament to their professionalism that those officers tasked to investigate and prosecute this incredibly complex case – with profound implications far beyond the borders of Avon and Somerset – successfully achieved a conviction.
Newspapers can be quick to criticise police when things go wrong, but it is only right that we salute them for their exceptional work at moments such as these.
For make no mistake, the fraud perpetrated by Jim McCormick was a wickedly diabolical one.
It is impossible to chart the full impact of this fraud, but that is something McCormick should have many years to ponder in accommodation a deal less salubrious than the luxury properties he acquired as a result of this scam.
He, of course, is not the only villain in this piece. The jailed corrupt Iraqi general in charge of that country’s bomb squad put his own countrymen at mortal danger through his complicity.
And the fact that even as august a body as the United Nations was taken in by this dubious equipment does little to reassure anyone of its competence.
But the people of Iraq might just be a little safer thanks to the work of West police officers who proved in court that these bomb detector kits supposedly aiding their safety are entirely bogus. That has to count as a good day’s work in anyone’s book.
Yet, as ever, it will inevitably have come at a cost.
Many thousands of man hours will have been spent developing this case so it stood up in court.
It is a price worth paying. But given how squeezed police budgets have been in recent years and will continue to be into the future, senior officers face an ever greater challenge to ensure they have the manpower and resource available to tackle such labyrinthine investigations.
It is imperative that the Government ensures that if one of our police forces had to carry out such an investigation in five years’ time, it would have the ability and strength to do so in such stellar fashion.