London

2012 Olympic torch police counselling 'barking mad'

Police and Chinese security officers tackle a protester during the London leg of the Beijing torch relay
Image caption Protests accompanied the 2008 Beijing torch relay in London and other cities

The police guard for the 70-day Olympic torch relay will be offered psychological counselling to help them "reintegrate" after the event.

Some 28 unarmed Metropolitan Police officers will guard the Olympic flame as it journeys around the UK in 2012.

A spokesman said they were "mindful" the officers would be away from home and said staff welfare was paramount.

But critics said the "barking mad" offer of counselling was a waste of resources.

The torch will leave Land's End, Cornwall, on the morning of 19 May.

The route, which covers every nation and region in the UK, will see the torch travel 8,000 miles before arriving in London for the start of the Olympics.

A minimum of two police officers will accompany the torch bearer at all times.

A Met spokesman said: "We recognise this is a unique policing role never performed within British policing.

"Mindful of the fact that officers will be taken away from their homes for 70 days, their reintegration back into the Met after the event is already being carefully planned.

"The welfare of our staff is of paramount importance."

He continued: "Occupational health specialists are already developing plans.

"The Met already has specialists who work with officers. These include counsellors, occupational psychologists and other medical staff."

London Assembly Member Jenny Jones, who sits on the Metropolitan Police Authority committee, said: "It sounds barking mad.

"A briefing, fine, but counselling? What a waste of resources.

"All the time we're talking about value for money and then we have the Met doing this."

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