Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Blitz on UVF thugs to continue, says PSNI chief George Hamilton

New PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton with Northern Ireland Policing Board chair Anne Connolly at a Press conference after his first public meeting with the body

The PSNI has made 29 arrests and conducted 102 searches in its crackdown on the east Belfast UVF, the new Chief Constable has revealed.

Speaking at his first meeting of the Policing Board as head of the PSNI, George Hamilton said his force's "sustained operation against organised criminality, including some personalities connected to east Belfast UVF, continues".

Drugs, firearms, contraband and cash have also been seized while action is being taken against illegal gaming machines, taxis and money laundering.

Mr Hamilton also said there had been 28 arrests and 64 searches resulting in six people being charged after what he termed as "incidents" in Larne and Carrickfergus.

It is understood that this referred to a loyalist rampage in Larne in March, when people and houses were attacked by up to 100 men brandishing weapons during serious street disorder. The PSNI later blamed the south east antrim UDA, which is based in Carrickfergus.

Charges so far have included intimidation, criminal damage, rioting and attempted murder. Mr Hamilton also told the PSNI watchdog that in early June, three figures he described as "New IRA" had pleaded guilty to terrorist charges relating to a training camp in Fermanagh and south Tyrone. Additionally, a Lurgan man was sentenced on June 5 for possession of IED components and explosives.

Mr Hamilton said confidence in the police was currently at its highest since records began, 67.3%. However, he said he recognised a confidence deficit exists in many disadvantaged areas.

Mr Hamilton said Northern Ireland had "come a long way in recent years", adding that the recent visit of the Queen was the first time that her schedule of engagements was published before the visit.

After an increase in hate crime, Mr Hamilton said a dedicated PSNI team had now searched, arrested and charged more than 30 individuals since April 2014.

"This team will remain in place until at least September whilst local commanders work to develop multi agency intervention," he said. "Of course we know that hate crime has been historically under-reported and whilst the rise in reporting presents challenges, it is also encouraging that as confidence in police rises, so does reported hate crime."

Turning to finances, the Chief Constable said significant challenges lie ahead for the PSNI.

He said the 2014/15 budget had already been cut by more than £62m, and could be slashed by another £10m.

"I should remind all that each £5m reduction in budget equates to approximately 100 operational police officers per year," he said.

What now?

One of George Hamilton's main concerns is, like any Chief Constable, his budget.

He told the Policing Board that the 2014/15 budget already reflected £47.6m in cuts as part of the £135m Comprehensive Spending Review reduction. But he added that the 2014/15 budget had recently been reduced by a further £15m, and another possible reduction of £10m was "currently under discussion."

Mr Hamilton said if this additional £10m cut was required it will "directly impact on our ability to keep people safe, our service delivery and our recruitment plans".

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