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A British peer who helped to recover Waiouru's stolen war medals is backing plans to set up an internationally successful crime tipoff line in New Zealand.

Lord Ashcroft, whose $200,000 reward led to the return of 96 war medals stolen from Waiouru Army Museum last year, is believed to have offered to help set up a Crimestoppers phone line similar to one he established in Britain in 1988, the Dominion Post reported today.

Crimestoppers is a charity that uses former police officers and trained staff to take tips from the public, then pass them on to police. It has led to more than 80,000 arrests and pays rewards in some cases.

Police Commissioner Howard Broad, who met Lord Ashcroft this month, confirmed police bosses were discussing the idea.

But "much water will flow under the bridge" before a line was set up, he said.

Multi-millionaire Lord Ashcroft, who is deputy chairman of the British Conservative Party, would not comment on a possible donation "at the moment" but said the scheme was "a benefit in any country".

"There are many people who know the details of crimes and those who committed them, who are close to the criminal and frightened of coming forward. Others simply do not want to get involved in the legal process.

"What Crimestoppers does is give them a voice."

Supporters of Crimestoppers say the single phone line can operate more smoothly than the numerous police crime lines for specific cases, some of which can become defunct after a few years even though the case remains open.

The collection of 96 medals, including nine Victoria Crosses, was stolen from the museum in the early hours of December 2 last year.

The medals were returned in February after police paid out part of a $300,000 reward for their recovery, with reportedly part of the money going to the thieves.

- NZPA