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Board backs Matt Baggott on Ardoyne riot tactics

PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott has been unanimously backed by the Northern Ireland Policing Board for tactics used by his officers during the Ardoyne riots over the Twelfth.

The board, which includes republican and unionist members, however, hit out at the cost of the massive operation to tackle the rioting and injuries to officers as “not acceptable”.

Calls were also made for more work to be done to prevent a repeat of the violent scenes next year.

The comments come after the Chief Constable delivered a briefing on Monday to the board about the sporadic violence that erupted in north Belfast and across Northern Ireland in the middle of July.

Rioters attacked police in several nationalist areas after parades by the Orange Order.

A policewoman suffered head injuries when a lump of concrete was dropped on her from a roof in north Belfast and more than 80 police officers were injured in the space of two nights.

The Chief Constable said the cost of the operation ran into millions of pounds.

Acting Chairman of the Policing Board Brian Rea said they welcomed the arrests of 38 people to date in connection with the disorder but added:

“The cost of this operation to the public purse and in terms of injuries to officers is not acceptable, and the board agrees with the Chief Constable that there needs to be a robust approach to dealing with this violence,” he said.

“Members are also concerned that children as young as eight were involved in the rioting in Ardoyne and are fully supportive of measures the PSNI, alongside Social Services, plan to put in place to tackle this serious problem.”

He added: “The strong community condemnation has been welcomed by the board, however this needs to be built on and as a society we need to work to ensure that these scenes are not repeated next year.”

Meanwhile Home Secretary Theresa May pledged serious crime fighting in Northern Ireland will not be downgraded as a result of a major policing shake-up. The Conservative Cabinet minister insisted controversial plans to overhaul the way crime is tackled will strengthen defences against drug dealing, human trafficking and smuggling.

Although most of proposals she unveiled earlier this week relate to forces in England and Wales, DUP MPs have raised concerns about plans to scrap the UK-wide Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).

East Antrim DUP MP Sammy Wilson called for assurances that the formation of the new agency “will not mean a downgrading of the fight against crime in regions such as Northern Ireland”.

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