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Sinn Fein support for police under question as president to be held over the weekend
2 May 2014
A new mural of Gerry Adams is being painted on Belfast’s Falls Road with the slogan ‘Peacemaker, leader, visionary’
PSNI have been granted an extra 48 hours to question Gerry Adams over the murder and abduction of Jean McConville.
Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly has reacted angrily to the news.
He said: “The arrest and continued detention of Gerry Adams is deliberately timed to coincide with the elections in three weeks time.
“This is political policing at its most blatant.
“Sinn Fein will not be intimidated by the action of a small cabal in the PSNI who are opposed to the peace process and political change.”
Sinn Fein support for the police appears under threat as detectives continued to quiz Adams about the murder of the mother-of-10.
Martin McGuinness warned that the party will “reflect” on its support for the PSNI if Gerry Adams is charged with any offences arising out of his arrest on Wednesday by officers investigating the 1972 murder.
The Stormont Deputy First Minister and Sinn Fein veteran said he and colleagues would not be making a “knee-jerk” decision. And he raised the spectre of what would be a huge blow to the peace process in the region as he said it was his understanding police were applying to a judge to extend the period of time they can question Mr Adams at Antrim police station.
Asked if Sinn Fein would withdraw support for policing if Mr Adams is ultimately charged, Mr McGuinness said: “We are very thoughtful and we are very reflective but I think if such a scenario does develop then we will sit down and we will reflect on what will be an even more serious situation than the one we face today.”
With the initial 48-hour deadline looming for officers to either charge or release Mr Adams after his arrest on Wednesday night, the PSNI applied for an extension, the Deputy First Minister confirmed.
Adams, 65, vehemently denies allegations levelled by former republican colleagues that he ordered Mrs McConville’s murder and secret burial in 1972.
04 November 2013
Liam Gonzalez Bennett
An SDLP councillor has welcomed the launch of a Police Ombudsman probe in to how the PSNI conducted an investigation, after no one was prosecuted for the death of a Co Antrim toddler.
Declan O’Loan – whose wife Nuala formerly occupied the Ombudsman’s post – sent a letter of complaint to Dr Michael Maguire’s office, as he was troubled by details that emerged during the inquest earlier this month into the death of Liam Gonzalez Bennett.
Mr O’Loan said: “Someone needs to break in to this case to see if there can have been justification for no charges having been taken and to establish if there was failure in some part of the legal chain.
“The Police Ombudsman is well placed to begin the necessary inquiries, and I welcome the fact that he has done so.”
The 20-month-old died on February 8, 2009, the day after he was rushed to hospital from his home at Sunningdale Park in Ballymena, having suffered 31 head injuries, leading to blindness and brain death.
His mother Samantha Bennett and stepfather Paul Noel McKeown were arrested and were questioned several times. But no prosecution was ever brought, and police are not seeking anyone else in connection with the little boy’s death.
In court, Dr Alistair Bentley, Deputy State Pathologist for Northern Ireland, concluded the bruises on Liam’s head may have been caused by the “knuckles of a clenched fist”.
At Liam’s inquest, Coroner Suzanne Anderson requested that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) look at the matter again.
Mr O’Loan said Mr Maguire had written to the coroner, Ms Anderson, seeking the reasons for her referral of the case back to the PPS and asking whether she had concerns about the quality of the police investigation.
He said the Ombudsman has also written to the DPP expressing an interest in the review that will take place and requesting that should the PPS identify any concerns about the adequacy of the police investigation, they refer the matter to him.
11 June 2012
The PSNI have announced they are to review all investigative leads into paramilitary style attacks in the city.
The North West has witnessed a total of 45 so called ‘paramilitary style punishment attacks’ in the last five years.
The police “initiative” will see “a co-ordinated approach with Crime Operations and District Policing,” they say, “to disrupt the activities of those believed to be involved in this criminality and a renewed appeal for public assistance through social media platform, Facebook.”
Currently the PSNI have a clearance rate of less than 5% for this type of crime.
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris said; “Of course we are frustrated with the clearance rate but in some instances victims of these type of crimes refuse to make statements or assist police. Without the evidence, the victim and witness information, success in detection is limited. But I and my colleagues are determined to use all the policing tools at our disposal to disrupt not only the crime but the criminality.
“We will use a serious and organised crime policing approach to make a difference.
“I am asking others today to get involved with us, to stand up and help those who need assistance and to ensure these attacks and those who carry them out are firmly rejected.
“This Facebook page will ask people for their assistance and will appeal in particular to young people.”
While welcoming the move as a “positive step” SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan said cautiously: “It is a positive step but a very small one in the right direction. Police have a responsibility as do all the judicial system to victims and society to ensure that those who carry out these attacks are held accountable.
“While the full details have yet to emerge I do wonder how the Facebook page will work in terms of confidentiality.”
5 June 2012
Vigilante group Republican Action Against Drugs has said it carried out the bomb attack on the PSNI in Derry on Saturday and warned that more attacks on security forces will follow.
In a statement, the group said it was responsible for a blast bomb attack which caused significant damage to the front of a PSNI vehicle in the Rathmore Road area of Creggan shortly before 5pm on Saturday.
The bomb, described by RAAD as “a newly developed explosive device,” was thrown at the vehicle while police officers carried out a house search in the area.
The PSNI condemned the attack and described it as an attempt to murder police officers.
It’s the first time the group has admitted targeting the security forces and marks an escalation of its violent actions. RAAD also said that such attacks would continue “as long as the security forces continue to victimise republican areas.”
Earlier this year the group claimed responsibility for its first murder when it admitted killing Derry man Andrew Allen in Lisfannon.
Until now, the group had claimed to be non-political, despite growing claims in republican circles that it had aligned itself with dissident republican groupings.
When it first appeared more than three years ago, RAAD claimed it was not interested in politics, despite its use of the name ‘republican.’
The now-defunct Independent Monitoring Commission, the body set up to monitor paramilitary activity in the North, described RAAD as a vigilante group rather than a dissident republican group in several of its later reports.
However, over the course of the last year many republicans claimed that RAAD had become a dissident organisation, pointing to the group’s use of the term ‘IRA’ to describe the Real IRA in a previous statement.
Saturday’s bomb attack comes after an increase in the number of search operations carried out by the PSNI in nationalist and republican areas of the city, which many believe are directed against RAAD.
A number of searches were carried out in the Creggan and Shantallow areas of the city on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Creggan Sinn Féin councillor and deputy mayor Kevin Campbell condemned the bomb attack and said that the lives of civilians had been put at risk.
RAAD rejected the assertion and claimed the area “was first secured to ensure there were no civilians nearby”.
“This attack was a direct response to increased and ever more brutal attacks on republicans and their families,” the RAAD statement claimed.
Anger at SF
RAAD also launched a stinging attack on Sinn Féin and claimed the party is responsible for the recent PSNI actions in the Creggan area.
“These recent arrests and searches have been instigated by Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin are responsible for the upsurge in trouble in republican areas caused by the response to security force brutality,” RAAD claimed.
31 May 2012
Members of NI’s largest public sector union have called for an end to the PSNI policy of rehiring retired officers on temporary contracts.
Delegates at the NIPSA annual conference in Londonderry unanimously supported a motion opposing the practice.
The union represents more than 1,200 civilian staff working for the PSNI.
It said its members were being denied opportunities because of the policy.
NIPSA said at present retired police officers were rehired for jobs that are not publicly advertised.
The motion said the practice had resulted in a culture of jobs for the boys.
It also criticised PSNI plans to outsource hundreds of support staff roles to private companies which employ hundreds of former police officers.
NIPSA has raised its concerns in meetings with the policing board and the audit office, which is conducting an investigation into the PSNI recruitment policy.
The audit office hopes to have a draft report ready by the end of May.
Last week the PSNI revealed it gave NIPSA an “extensive presentation” on agency staff earlier this year.
In a statement, the PSNI said there was an existing and well understood procedure for the resolution of disagreements in common with good industrial relations practices and that issues of concern should be raised through the appropriate channels.
Hundreds of former RUC officers have been rehired by the PSNI on temporary contracts after retiring with generous Patten redundancy packages.
26 May 2012
QUESTIONS have been raised about the independence of so-called “independent” members of the bodies that oversee the PSNI after the appointment of a serving Sinn Fein councillor as a non-political representative.
Last week the membership of the new Policing and Community and Safety Partnerships (PCSPs) – which have just replaced District Policing Partnerships – was announced.
The bodies, which are supposed to hold the PSNI to account in each of the 26 council areas, are made up of both political members – appointed by the local council – and independent members who apply to the Policing Board which selects and appoints them.
But one of the 232 “independent” members of the PCSPs announced last week is Banbridge Sinn Fein councillor Paul Gribben.
Lagan Valley DUP MLA Brenda Hale said that the Policing Board’s decision to appoint the councillor as an independent member was “astounding”.
Ms Hale said: “Serious questions need to be asked as to how this situation was been allowed to happen.
“How can an applicant, who serves as a local political elected representative, also be considered for one of the ‘independent’ positions?
“It is deeply disappointing that those community leaders and community activists who are real independents were being displaced by those who were seeking to gain extra political positions.”
Local Dromore DUP councillor and Banbridge PCSP member Paul Rankin said: “If a sitting councillor can apply as an independent and be accepted, then what is there to prevent all of the independent positions being filled by elected representatives?
“When is an independent truly an independent?”
Although he is the most obviously political “independent” member of a PCSP, Mr Gribben is not the only independent with strong links to a political party.
The Policing Board said that about 40 per cent of “independent” members had declared some political involvement.
And in a statement the board defended allowing political representatives to be appointed as non-political members.
It said: “The Policing Board recently appointed 232 independent members to Policing and Community Safety Partnerships across Northern Ireland following the recent recruitment exercise.
“The board can confirm that a number of sitting councillors applied for positions as independent members of PCSPs.
“The Justice Act does not currently prevent sitting councillors from applying as an independent member of a PCSP and one councillor has been appointed to Banbridge PCSP.”
District Policing Partnerships (DPPs) were introduced as part of the Patten reforms of policing in an attempt to connect police to their communities and allow ordinary members of the public to hold local police commanders to account.
But, despite costing millions in fees for members — who were each paid more than £2,000 a year — and administrative costs, most DPP meetings were poorly attended.
Often there were fewer members of the public present than politicians and police.
The PCSPs replace both DPPs and Community Safety Partnerships.
However, unlike the existing bodies there will be attendance-related payments to members of the new bodies who will be paid £60 per meeting to a maximum of 20 meetings per year.
18 May 2012
The partner of a murdered man whose body parts were retained by police for 19 years has begun legal action.
Anthony Butler was murdered by the loyalist UFF in south Belfast in 1993.
Police apologised on Wednesday for distress caused to families after it was revealed body parts and tissue samples had been kept in 64 cases.
His partner Maureen Jamison said she was “in total shock and very angry” after being told on Thursday that part of his skull had been retained.
No-one has ever been charged with his murder.
Ms Jamison said: “The police banged on the door yesterday and told me that they were here regarding my late partner.
“I thought that the police were coming out to tell me that they caught the people who murdered Tony.
“It’s as if it is happening all over again. This has brought all the pain back.
“They left me with a decision whether to bury Tony’s skull or incinerate it.”
The family’s solicitor, Patrick Madden, said: “We do not accept the explanation given by police for not informing the family about the retained body part.
“There must be an immediate and transparent inquiry into why relatives were not informed and why they have waited until now to come clean.”
Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton said: “The police service respects the right of any family to take this action.
“In terms of interaction with families affected by the human tissue review, police have ensured that highly trained family liaison officers have met personally with families.
“It has always been the priority of police to put families and their needs first in what is a very distressing time.”
The cases, including 23 related to the Troubles, were revealed as part of a UK-wide audit of all police forces.
The PSNI said the body parts were retained as part of investigations between 1960 and 2005 and could include skulls and organs.
16 May 2012
There is fear among victims’ families following the revelation that police kept body parts and tissue in 64 death investigations, a campaigner has said.
Alan McBride, from the victims’ group Wave, said although police had acted within the law at the time, there was a “moral obligation” to inform relatives.
Mr McBride urged police to contact all of the families affected as quickly as possible to allay fears.
The PSNI has apologised for the distress caused to families.
The body parts and tissue samples were retained as part of police investigations into suspicious and unexplained deaths between 1960 and 2005.
The cases, including 23 related to the Troubles, were revealed as part of a UK-wide audit of all police forces.
Mr McBride told BBC Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra programme that although he personally did not know any of the 64 families whose loved ones’ body parts had been retained, there was fear among many relatives that police would knock on their door.
“For these families to be told all these years later, when perhaps they have buried their loved ones and even gone through the grieving process and moved on – the potential here for re-traumatisation for some families I think is immense,” he said.
Mr McBride called on the PSNI to ensure family liaison officers, or police with the “appropriate skillset” carried out personal visits to the relatives.
Meanwhile, the mother of a murdered schoolgirl – who had consented to the retention of part of her daughter’s body as part of the police investigation – said it was very important that families were told the truth.
Police say they are trying to trace her last movements Part of Megan McAlorum’s body was retained by police with her family’s consent
Margaret McAlorum’s 16-year-old daughter, Megan, died from head injuries after she was assaulted in 2004.
Mrs McAlorum said the PSNI had kept her family informed “every step of the way” and had fully explained the need to retain the teenager’s head as evidence.
The family later held a second burial for Megan.
Her mother said families would understand why body parts had to be kept in certain circumstances to help with investigations, but she said it would be much easier to cope if they were kept informed.
“If someone had rapped my door now, I would be extremely, extremely stressed,” she said.
Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton said the PSNI had acted within the law and that all the items had been retained for “police purposes”, but he admitted relatives should have been informed.
He explained that until 2006 police were under no legal obligation to inform relatives.
Officers are now visiting affected families to advise them of their options.
ACC Hamilton said families “needs, wishes, trauma and upset” were at the heart of its response, but admitted that the matter could have been better handled.
“We offer an apology for the upset we are causing to families,” he said.
“The problem has been that there was no review mechanism in place, there was no monitoring or audit so that decisions could be made… about how we would handle those pieces of human tissue, once the criminal justice element had been fulfilled.
He said police were satisfied that there was a “good reason” for retaining the items, a decision that was largely based on the judgement of pathologists.
ACC Hamilton said most of the samples will be suitable to be handed back or dealt with in accordance with family’s wishes.
“Even if it does need to be retained, there still needs to be that important conversation with families to explain that we have these items and why we have it and what we intend to do with it,” he said.
State Pathologist for Northern Ireland, Prof Jack Crane explained that material would be kept for two reasons.
“One would be that it would assist or help us determine the precise cause of death, and the other one would be for evidential purposes,” he said.
“In many cases we carry out, we don’t feel the need to retain material.”
Prof Crane said some of these cases had not gone through the criminal justice system and could still possibly come to court.
“We would be failing in our duty if there was something that could possibly have evidential value and we had destroyed or disposed off that might still be required,” he said.
“There are a number of old cases being examined by Historical Enquiries Team and on some occasions they have come to us to ask us what material we might have that may be of assistance to them.”
Last week, it emerged that two police forces in England – Hampshire and City of London – kept body parts and tissue samples in 89 suspicious and unexplained death cases without notifying relatives.
The legislation was changed in 2006 making the retention of body tissue illegal.
14 May 2012
Seven police officers have been disciplined over their handling of an investigation into the death of a man in Lisburn in October 2010.
Jim Heasley, who was 70, died ten days after he was assaulted as he walked home. Initially, police believed his injuries were the result of a fall.
Jim Heasley was attacked in Lisburn on 17 October 2010
In March, a 48-year-old man pleaded guilty to the pensioner’s manslaughter.
An investigation by the police ombudsman found a series of failings in the initial police response.
The pensioner was attacked in Manor Park, as he walked home to Graig Gardens after a night out at his local pigeon club.
“We were asking questions which the police weren’t, and what made it even worse, the police actually gave this man a lift home after the assault”
–David Heasley Victim’s brother
Jackie Allen, of Ravarnet Gardens in Lisburn, was initially charged with his murder, but was jailed for three years after admitting manslaughter.
The police ombudsman upheld a complaint against the PSNI which was made by Mr Heasley’s brother David.
He told BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show that as soon as he saw his brother in hospital, he knew the injuries were the result of an attack.
However, he said it took more than a week for the police to realise that the pensioner had been assaulted.
“They were treating it, that a 70-year-old with a drink problem who had one fall too many, and that’s as far as they were prepared to go on it,” Mr Heasley said.
“To say disappointed is an understatement, I was truly gutted at the response of the police and the whole family felt the exact same,” he added.
Mr Heasley did not wake from a coma and died from his injuries.
“We were asking questions which the police weren’t, and what made it even worse, the police actually gave this man a lift home after the assault,” Mr Heasley said.
The police ombudsman found that the pensioner’s wounds were not photographed, nor was his clothing seized for analysis after PSNI officers received a report that Mr Heasley had been admitted to hospital with head injuries.
The investigation also found that officers should have carried out a “more robust examination of the incident scene”.
It also criticised police for failing to “properly review” all available CCTV evidence until a week after the attack and said the investigation should have been referred to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at an earlier stage.
In a statement the PSNI said it had examined the police ombudsman’s findings and complied with requirements.
“We recognise that there were failings in the initial police handling of this case and we have apologised to the family for that.
“However we are glad that, thanks to the subsequent thorough and focused police investigation, this case was brought to court and an individual has now received a custodial sentence in connection with Mr Heasley’s death,” the statement said.
10 May 2012
The PSNI needs to improve its crime detection rates, according to the chairman of the Policing Board.
Brian Rea said the police’s annual crime statistics “show some improvement in a number of areas, but in others the PSNI have not met targets set”.
Mr Rea said he was pleased the level of overall crime was at its lowest, with fewer incidents of anti-social behaviour and burglaries.
He said improved detection rates would “contribute to community confidence”.
Mr Rea said the board, which holds the PSNI to account, had “recently expressed major concern around the police response to punishment attacks and the need to improve clearance rates”.
According to PSNI figures published on Thursday, 2011/12 saw the lowest level of crime in Northern Ireland for 14 years and the lowest level of anti-social behaviour in six years.
Crime across Northern Ireland fell by 1.6%, from 105,040 offences in 2010/11 to 103,389 offences in 2011/12.
Anti-social behaviour dropped by 12,763 incidents in the last year, the lowest level recorded by the PSNI since this method of recording was introduced across the UK in 2006/7.
Road deaths were at their lowest level since 1931, and burglary also fell to its lowest levels since 1998/99.
Chief Constable Matt Baggott said: “I am pleased to report that crime is at its lowest level in 14 years, which is encouraging news.
“This should be seen alongside increasing levels of confidence in policing.
“Together these show that policing, with increasing support, is having an impact on a more positive future.”
3 May 2012
Plans to sell 21 police stations across Northern Ireland have been endorsed by the Policing Board, while nine others also reviewed are to remain operational.
The Belfast stations to be shut are North Queen Street, Donegall Pass, Knocknagoney and Ballynafeigh.
Stations at Crossgar, Killyleagh, Saintfield, Comber and Donaghadee are also to close, along with Glengormley and Randalstown, Keady and Brownlow, Irvinestown and Fintona, Dungiven and Eglinton, Cloughmills, Bushmills, Glenarm and Garvagh.
“It is important that these disposals are viewed in the context of a police estate that fits modern policing requirements and ensures value for money,” Policing Board chairman Brian Rea said.
Welcoming the Policing Board’s endorsement of the plans, the PSNI said it would allow more officers to be out on the streets instead of confined to bases.
“Overall levels of reported crime in Northern Ireland are at a 12-year low. This reduction has been delivered by the public working in partnership with police officers, not by police buildings.”
–ACC Dave Jones
“Recent restructuring has delivered over 600 police officers to front-line duties,” Assistant Chief Constable Dave Jones said.
“The distribution of smartphones to over 4,000 frontline police officers has reduced the need to return to a police station to complete administrative tasks – increasing the amount of time officers spend on patrol per shift by over two hours.”
The proposals to close four other stations – Hillsborough, Dromore, Portglenone and Broughshane – were met with community concerns which have been taken on board by the PSNI.
According to Mr Rea, the PSNI has “committed to further engagement in transition to a disposal in the current CSR period which ends 1 April 2015” regarding those four stations.
20 Apr 2012
The PSNI could not tackle the dissident threat without MI5, Chief Constable Matt Baggott has said.
“To be frank, I need the expertise and analytical capability of the security services,” he said.
“MI5’s job here is simply to keep people safe – that’s what they do alongside the PSNI.
“We would not be having the success we’ve had if not for working closely with the security services as well as colleagues in An Garda Siochana.”
Mr Baggott said the St Andrew’s Agreement set out clearly that the police remain in operational control and see all intelligence.
“We have a very firm grip on what we need to do but the division between what is called national security, which still rests with the government in London, and local policing is set out very clearly in the St Andrews Agreement,” he told BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show.
“There is accountability in a different way through surveillance commissioners, other bodies and the ombudsman, and I think that this works.”
20 April 2012
Creggan residents who allege they are victims of “campaign of harassment” by the PSNI have been urged to log every incident with the police Ombudsman.
Human rights activists and Derry solicitor Paddy McGurk addressed members of the public who allege they have been victims of police harassment through use of controversial stop and search powers under sections 21 and 24 of the Justice and Security Act 2007 at a special meeting organised by Creggan Women’s Group on Wednesday night.
The meeting heard of several serious allegations of the misuse of stop and search powers against people with dissident republican views, their children and wider family circles.
It was chaired by veteran republican and former Sinn Fein councillor Hugh Brady who stated: “Our children, wives or parents can’t be held to account for our actions or other people’s actions.” He said that official figures had revealed that in a single quarter 2,400 people were stopped and searched by police in Derry and nothing was recovered while in he same period the powers were used just once in Larne and led to a drugs arrest.
Local mother Kelly Ramsey said the stop and search incidents were “getting out of hand”, alleging several instances of police harassment towards her family. She alleged that she was “nearly rammed off the road” by a PSNI Tactical Support Group while eight months pregnant, that an officer threatened to urinate on her floor during a house search and that officers also spat on her floor. She added that her 15 year-old son was stopped by police “simply because of who his father is”.
Her husband Stephen Ramsey told the meeting that he was stopped seven times in just four days and asked to identify himself by the same officers.
Dan Holder, Deputy Director, Committee for Administration of Justice, said that anyone who believed they were stopped unlawfully should complain to the Police Ombudsman.
Kitty McDaid, of Creggan Women’s group, said: “We are making people aware of what is happening to these good communities, to good people.”
In a joint statement SDLP Councillors Jim Clifford and Anne Donnelly, the only political representatives to attend, said: “The stopping of alleged paramilitaries by the police is one thing but the harassment of people going about their daily business, and women and children in Derry is not acceptable.”
THE Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) have challenged the PSNI over its refusal to confirm or deny whether it holds information in relation to alleged Provisional IRA activity in Derry.
PUP concerns centre on a story run in the Londonderry Sentinel in September 2010 when people in the Gobnascale district claimed that identifiable members of the mainstream republican movement threatened local youths with handguns that they then fired in an attempt to deter them from building a bonfire in the district in August 2010.
At the time locals said that around 20 masked men appeared in the Campion Court area having disembarked from a white van. They began to remove materials intended for use at a bonfire before being challenged by local youths.
The vehicle that ferried the masked men was later abandoned causing a security alert in the district during which some homes were evacuated.
One 15-year-old girl challenged by the masked assailants said at the time that she was left terrified by the incident.
“One of the men grabbed me by the throat and had a gun in his hand. I couldn’t breath. It was really scary,” she said.
It was then claimed that as police arrived into the area the men removed their masks to blend in with local people, causing them to be identified as members of the mainstream republican movement. This view was backed by dissident republican groupings.
The Londonderry Sentinel subsequently launched a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to the PSNI about Provisional IRA activity in the city. The request centred on all reports, emails and memos sent to or sent by the PSNI or within the PSNI which make mention of the Provisional IRA being involved in criminal activity of any sort within G District from July 1, 2010 to July 28, 2011.
After an initial denial to grant the requested information, the Sentinel requested an internal review, citing that disclosing the information was in the public interest. But, the PSNI review did not find in the newspaper’s favour citing amongst other sections of the FoI Act that matters of national security outweigh the public interest.
However, PUP leader Billy Hutchinson has now voiced “serious concerns” on this decision and says his party plans to raise the issue with the PSNI Chief Constable and the Police Ombudsman.
Mr Hutchinson said: “A newspaper in Londonderry has stated that mainstream republicans were allegedly involved in an incident where 20 masked men chased youths from a bonfire in the city and shots were fired. A Freedom of Information request for information on criminal activity by the Provisional IRA in the city was refused, as was the appeal.
“This raises a number of important issues, particularly at a time when mainstream republicans were taking seats on new Police and Community Safety Partnerships,” he said.
The PUP leader continued by arguing that if the PSNI is to be open and accountable then its decisions must also be transparent.
Mr Hutchinson said: “I’m confused as to why the PSNI don’t feel they can share this information with the public.
“The public has a right to know if the Provisional IRA are engaging in criminal activity, particularly if Sinn Fein are in government. The release of this information is most certainly in the public interest and I would ask who is being protected by the PSNI stance, and most importantly,why?”
The PUP leader urged other unionist parties to also ask questions.
“The attitude of the PSNI towards this issue is in stark contrast to their attitude towards the loyalist community, where they will act on scurrilous claims by dubious witnesses, as evidenced in the recent super grass trial,” he claimed.
“They seem to have no problem wasting an estimated £10 million on the cost of this trial, yet they can’t be open and transparent about a simple FoI request.”
10 Apr 2012
The DUP is calling on the police to explain why no attempt was made to stop a dissident republican rally in Derry from taking place.
Six people were arrested and released without charge following the Easter Monday commemoration at City Cemetery, which was addressed by a masked spokesman for the Real IRA.
He read out a statement pledging that the organisation would continue its campaign of violence against the police and army in Northern Ireland.
The PSNI made no attempt to make arrests during the commemoration, with no officers visible on the ground – although they did monitor events from a helicopter hovering overhead.
It was only when the event ended that police took action, arresting six people who were taken to Antrim Serious Crime Suite for questioning.
Gregory Campbell, the DUP’s spokesman on security issues, told UTV the police need to adopt a more serious approach.
He said: “I think that unless we see some sort of response now in terms of further arrests, unless we see that leading to a non-repeat of this, then we have got to have a different approach.”
However, police said they “took the decision to run a low-key operational response” at the 32 County Sovereignty Movement commemoration.
Local area commander Chief Inspector Gary Eaton said: “Any alleged breaches of criminal law reported to police or coming to our attention will be rigorously and thoroughly investigated.
“The PSNI work to ensure that all their actions are appropriate, proportionate and lawful. Our priorities are to protect the public, preserve public order, uphold the human rights of all and gather evidence of any wrong-doing.”
Several hundred dissident republican supporters watched as the colour party marched to the cemetery on Monday, where wreaths were laid.
The spokesman, dressed in a balaclava and black combat gear, said Óglaigh na hÉireann would continue to attack “Crown forces” and “British interests and infrastructure”.
His words were met with applause by the crowd.
Police have appealed for anyone with information to come forward.
ANALYSIS: The PSNI sought to tell dissidents there is a price to pay for causing murder and despair
31 Mar 2012
SHORTLY AFTER Lord Justice Girvan convicted former Sinn Féin councillor Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton of the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris made a point of walking over to the chief prosecuting lawyer, Ciaran Murphy QC, to shake hands and congratulate him.
This was a big case that carried a big message, and Mr Harris’s gesture reflected the PSNI’s sense of satisfaction at the outcome, and also its sense of relief.
It was a big case too for the family of Constable Carroll. That was obvious in how his widow Kate emotionally embraced her son Shane in the public gallery of the court after the verdict was announced.
Ms Carroll said the case brought some closure, but there was a “long, long way to go yet because not everyone connected with Steve’s murder has been found guilty”.
This is undoubtedly true, because a considerable degree of planning went into the murder operation carried out by the Continuity IRA – and certainly more than two of its members were involved.
It’s not even clear that either McConville or Wootton fired the fatal shot from the AK 47 assault rifle on the night of March 9th, 2009, that killed 48-year-old Constable Carroll. But, said Lord Justice Girvan, while the evidence against the two men was circumstantial, the case was nonetheless “compelling” and they “were both intimately involved” in the murder.
Therefore there is some sense of release for the Carroll family, and a strong sense of professional achievement for the PSNI.
It was hugely important for the police that they put up a credible, thorough case against the defendants. This wasn’t just about the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll; it was about sending a message of intent to dissident republicans: while they could cause murder and despair, there would be a price to pay.
The dissidents have been involved in three high-profile murder attacks in the past three years. In January, Brian Shivers was convicted of the dissident murders in Antrim of British soldiers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey, which happened just two days before the murder of Constable Carroll. The other defendant, leading Lurgan republican Colin Duffy, walked free.
Of the four defendants in the two cases, three were convicted of murder, which indicates the investigators put together well-constructed, if imperfect, cases. The results must also have some effect in terms of prompting others to think twice before casting their lot with the nihilistic philosophy of the dissidents.
The third major killing was that of Constable Ronan Kerr, who died in an under-car bomb attack in Omagh on April 2nd last year. Nobody has been charged with his murder, but the PSNI is actively pursuing the case and hasn’t by any measure given up hope of yet bringing charges and achieving convictions.
Ms Carroll said she pitied the killers. “They haven’t achieved anything from when Steve was killed, from when Ronan Kerr was killed,” she said.
There are old-guard purist republicans on whom such a message will have absolutely no impact. But there must be others, mindful of a fairly strong “strike” rate by the police in terms of convictions, who will pause for thought when considering taking the dissident route.
Whatever about the involvement of a veteran republican such as McConville, who transferred from Sinn Féin to the dissidents when the Provisionals embraced the new dispensation, what motivated Wootton to get involved?
He was only 17 when Constable Carroll was murdered and would have had relatively little memory of the Troubles.
“A cop’s a cop,” was his brutal and simplistic view about it all. One wonders is he any wiser now, and does he recognise any truth in what Ms Carroll also said yesterday about the dissidents? “They have achieved nothing. They are fighting a losing battle. Why do they do it? No one wants it any more.”
By Vincent Kearney
27 Mar 2012
The PSNI spent more than £4m on the first so-called supergrass trial here in more than 25 years.
Twelve men were acquitted of all charges against them after a judge said the two main prosecution witnesses were liars and “ruthless terrorists”.
Details of the costs have been revealed in a letter to the justice committee at Stormont.
Their trial is expected to be one of the most expensive ever held in Northern Ireland.
It relied on the evidence of so-called supergrasses, Robert and Ian Stewart.
Nine men involved in the UVF supergrass trial were acquitted of the murder of UDA leader Tommy English.
They included the alleged former UVF leader in north Belfast Mark Haddock.
Thirteen men had been charged with more than 30 offences including the murder of rival loyalist Mr English, kidnapping, and UVF membership.
Twelve out of the 13 were acquitted of all charges. Neil Pollock, 36, was convicted of possessing items intended for terrorism.
A letter from the Department of Justice to the justice committee at Stormont revealed that the estimated costs for the PSNI are slightly more than £4.3m.
That figure included the cost of the investigation and providing security during the 72-day trial.
The Public Prosecution Service spent £520,000, and the court service another £219,000. The cost to the prison service was more than £768,000.
The combined costs revealed on Tuesday totalled more than £5.8m.
However, the figure does not include the most expensive part of the trial – the legal aid fees for the defence barristers and solicitors.
The Department of Justice said those costs have still not been finalised.
23 March 2012
The Mayor of Limavady says an “historic” meeting between police and young people from Dungiven is “breaking down barriers”.
Sinn Fein councillor Sean McGlinchey was among those who attended the ”Youth Reach” event in the town last week, which attracted more two dozen youths, and a number of their parents.
The two-hour meeting, the “first of its kind”, was hosted by officers from Limavady Rural Neighbourhood Policing Team in partnership with Benbradagh Community Support Group and held at Dungiven library.
Teenagers discussed drugs, alcohol and anti social behaviour and how they are affecting their community, and how each could be tackled.
“I have to say, the turn out was great and it really got young people interacting with police,” Mayor McGlinchey told the ‘Journal’. “The Neighbourhood officers, Mark France and Brian Logue are doing a great job and things are definitely changing, and this is breaking down barriers. I think it’s very easy for people to sit on the fence and criticise, but progress happens in stages and this is a good place to start.”
Colleen Harkin of Benbradagh Community Support said the young people participating had a lot of great ideas on the night.
“People really got into it and it was really enjoyable,” she said, explaining that those participating realise the issues discussed do exist in Dungiven, but no more so that in any other town in the North.
“They obviously think there are issues because they wanted to have their say. We discussed how we could tackle them and how young people can be educated about them. It was really interesting and they all had their chance to say what they think.”
Ms Harkin believes young people know police are there to help.
“It was an engagement event and it was good for the young people to get to know their officers and realise when they see them it’s not because something is wrong; that they’re there to help and Wednesday night confirmed that. It was historic and we hope to do another one soon and make it a regular thing.”
PSNI Area Commander for Limavady, Chief Inspector Sam Donaldson praised the young people for their contribution and their “fantastic suggestions”.
“They also had the chance to meet their local Neighbourhood police officers in person and share their ideas so we can work together as a community to make our streets and neighbourhoods safer,” he said.
14 Mar 2012
Some PSNI officers will now be able to compete for promotion to senior ranks within the Garda Siochana.
The Irish government has introduced regulations which will allow officers at the rank of inspector or above to compete for appointments.
Similar arrangements are in place within the PSNI.
The new regulations do not apply to the posts of Garda commissioner or deputy commissioner, which are at discretion of the Irish government.
Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter said the regulations were part of a commitment in the intergovernmental agreement on police co-operation.
“That agreement, which has been progressively implemented, provided that members of the PSNI or the Garda should be able to apply for positions at ranks above inspector level in the other police force.”
The regulations allow members of the PSNI at the rank of inspector or above to compete for appointment in the same competition as similar ranks in the Garda, to the ranks of superintendent, chief superintendent or assistant commissioner in the Irish police.
“The agreement also provided for cooperation between the two police forces at the level of exchanges without police powers and secondment with police powers,” Mr Shatter said.
“The experience gained by officers from both sides continues to enhance the level of cooperation and exchange of information between both forces.
“These new regulations mark a truly historic further step in relations between the two forces, to the benefit of policing on this island.”
The new regulations come into force immediately.