Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Fury as fresh probe ordered into police's human rights compliance

A police officer silhouetted by flames curing the recent flag row unrest
A police officer silhouetted by flames curing the recent flag row unrest

An investigation by a human rights expert into how the PSNI has policed flags protests and street violence has been branded a waste of money.

The Policing Board has split over the commission of the probe into riot policing with the DUP saying officers are being strangled by having to meet continual human rights commitments.

The board has ordered their human rights adviser Alyson Kilpatrick to launch a review of recent public order incidents.

The probe comes at a time when police have faced heavy criticism for not taking a more proactive approach to tackling flag protesters. Some officers have privately suggested that a constant obsession with human rights has prevented them from doing their jobs.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott yesterday reported to the Policing Board on the human cost of the protests which have resulted in more than 100 officers being injured.

The new investigation by Ms Kilpatrick – who has been paid hundreds of thousands of pounds in consultancy fees by the board – will examine the use of force during public order situations.

This is despite the board's annual human rights report released today stating that policing of the large number of public order incidents throughout July and September last year was "well planned", that human rights standards were "effectively applied" and the decision making process complied with the Human Rights Act.

It also stated that the PSNI has a "robust policy" on the use of force in public order situations and it delivers a "high standard" of public order training to police officers, including refresher training on human rights in public order situations.

The report also acknowledged that, following a review by the PSNI of its use of force during public order incidents, as recommended in last year's report, there was a dramatic decrease in the number of plastic bullets fired during summer disorder.

Last year, 12 AEP rounds were discharged throughout summer riots – compared to 350 during a similar period in 2011.

However, as the report does not examine the current flag protests, the human rights committee want a more comprehensive analysis of public order incidents to be undertaken.

Committee chairman Conall McDevitt said that the policing of public order situations is an area of police work that requires continued scrutiny.

The SDLP man added: "This year's report examines issues in relation to the policing of public order situations and the particular responsibilities of the police under the Human Rights Act.

"Given the level of public order policing over the last number of months and the impact this level of violence has had on both the community and the policing service, the committee has agreed to undertake a piece of work in the coming months to examine public order issues."

However, DUP Policing Board member Jonathan Craig (below) furiously hit out at the commission of the report saying "review after review" is not needed, especially when no issues of concern have been raised.

He said that the PSNI is already highly scrutinised when it comes to public order policing.

The board's human rights committee receives public order briefings from the PSNI throughout the year.

The relevant district commander also has to submit to the Policing Board a written record containing details of the nature of any recent disorder, force used, injuries sustained or damage to property.

In addition, following a request by the human rights committee in 2011, the PSNI has developed a programme of annual briefing sessions to "review public order operations to ensure that future operations are informed by the lessons learned during the reviews".

Mr Craig said: "I have major concerns about the existing human rights committee asking for any further reviews on issues like this. This is unnecessary and unwelcome.

"The bill last year to the board was very high for human rights. That in itself leads you to ask if there has been an overuse in this area?"

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