A SCOTTISH police force has shelled out £364,000 in the past five years to pay for doors they smashed in.
Lothian and Borders Police knocked down hundreds of doors hunting for drug dealers and other wanted criminals.
But hitting the wrong addresses or failing to find anyone to pay for the damage has left taxpayers with a growing bill.
Police raids which destroy doors have cost the force £364,000
The total cost of securing raided properties was £40,512 in 2007 but that rose £90,552 in 2010 and hit £86,548 last year.
The bill for making good smashed doors in Edinburgh alone was £277,000 between January 2007 and last month.
Three times last year and three times already this year, Lothian and Borders broke in to completely the wrong addresses.
Forces are also liable for the cost if no evidence of a crime is found or it proves impossible to get the owner to pay up.
Lothian and Borders outsource the repair work to a company called Boing Rapid Secure Ltd, based in Norfolk.
One joiner, who asked not to be named, explained why he gave up doing the work.
“I felt we weren’t getting the back-up from police,” he said.
“The police raided a lot of doors and afterwards we would get told, ‘send an invoice to that drug dealer of whoever’. There was no way I was sending out an invoice for £200 to people like that who just had their doors kicked in.”
The joiner added: “I was on jobs a number of times where the wrong door was kicked in. The owners would often go mental. They would have an address on a warrant but the process of getting it took days and by that time the person had moved, or the police would raid their cousin’s house and be told they hadn’t been living there for weeks.”
Lewis Macdonald, Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman, said: “The police should always ensure they have the correct address, but that is not going to be possible in 100% of cases.”
Lothian and Borders Police said: “Police have a duty to protect insecure premises and if the owner cannot be promptly traced, the police will take reasonable steps to make them secure.
“While Boing make every effort to recover the costs from the owner of the property, sometimes it is not possible to do so and Lothian and Borders Police is liable.
“On the very rare occasions that Lothian and Borders Police forces a door in error, it apologises and pays the repair costs.”
A Boing spokesman said: “Around 15% of people liable for repair costs refuse to pay. We make up the vast majority of these costs to ensure they are not passed to the taxpayer.”