Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Policing of G8 summit 'successful'

Inspectors were happy with security provision for the G8 summit, a report says

Police and other criminal justice agencies rose to the challenge of hosting the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, independent inspectors have said.

The planning process was well managed and lessons learned from previous gatherings of leaders of the world's most powerful countries. This was despite a severe terrorism threat and the limited time to make preparations, the high-powered review team said.

The meeting in Co Fermanagh's luxury Lough Erne golf resort was one of the most peaceful for years, with only two arrests made in connection with protests. A massive security presence was put in place with outside officers drafted in to support the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) amid a severe threat from dissident republicans and fears of violent anti-globalisation protesters travelling from abroad.

Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland said: "The strategic planning and co-ordination across the criminal justice system had, by default, significantly improved as a result of recent events and demands primarily surrounding the G8 summit.

"There was significant evidence of very positive inter-agency working and a sense of 'rising to the challenge'... Inspectors considered the extensive and exceptional planning for the G8 summit. Some of the learning from this and the recent flag-related disturbances now need to be absorbed and applied for the future."

More than 300 arrests were made in Scotland during the Gleneagles summit in 2005, the last time the UK hosted the meeting of some of the world's superpowers. Preparations had been made for Sunday courts, a cell block was laid aside for those charged and police erected a security fence around the venue and patrolled by boat, vehicle, air and foot.

The report said: "The challenges are further exacerbated by the peculiarities of the Northern Ireland situation, including the venue being close to the land border with the Republic of Ireland and the security environment with the threat levels multi-layered, but overall standing at 'severe' and meaning that a terrorist attack is 'highly likely'."

At the time of review, several months before the event, a considerable amount of work remained to be done but no major concerns arose and summit planning was adequate.

Chief inspector of criminal justice Brendan McGuigan said police had developed significant expertise in managing the impact of violence. "But there are often substantial delays between the actual events and subsequent court hearings," he added. Inspectors recommended Stormont's Justice Department produce proposals for how perpetrators of widespread public disorder could be fast tracked through the criminal justice process.

A PSNI spokesman said the report acknowledges the force's position as a leader in the field of policing disorder, together with success in some of the most challenging circumstances available. He said: "We will carefully consider the recommendations and suggested areas for improvement within the report. We have already begun work on a critical review of our performance from recent events, and this will include external and independent leadership of the examination of operation sponsor, the policing and security operation in support of the G8 summit 2013."

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