Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Sending Northern Ireland police to Libya was insensitive, says top officer

Ian Paisley jnr

The decision to send UK police officers to train their counterparts in Libya was “naive and insensitive”, the chairman of the Police Federation has said.

Paul McKeever said the scheme would spark anger over the killing of Pc Yvonne Fletcher.

She was shot 25-years-ago outside the Libyan embassy in London, but the Government has allegedly agreed her killer would not be tried in Britain.

He said: “Whilst it may be customary for countries to look to the UK police to provide expertise and training I find it incredible that the Foreign Office has been so naive and insensitive imposing this particular request on the National Policing Improvement Agency.

“This will further anger and disgust rank and file officers who believe Libya should and could be more proactive in securing the arrest of Pc Fletcher's killer. This one way traffic, where we do all the giving and they just take, must stop.”

The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) refused to name individual forces involved, but a spokesman confirmed the officers came from across the UK.

The NPIA spokesman said there had been three training projects in Libya in the last 12 months involving UK officers. These covered leadership, strategic planning and forensics. No serving officers are currently in the country.

As part of the scheme, Libyan officers have also visited Britain in the past year to view our forensic methods, he said.

Mr McKeever’s criticism comes after news that two PSNI officers had been involved in the training in Libya sparked fury on Friday.

Victims of IRA violence expressed disbelief at the inclusion of an officer from Northern Ireland in the training scheme.

William Frazer, of victims group Fair (Families Acting for Innocent Relatives), said: “Here we have the police out training the people who trained the IRA and supplied the weapons to murder their colleagues, it's just unbelievable,” he said.

Mr Frazer, who lost several security force family members to IRA terrorism, is part of a group travelling to Libya in October to press for compensation for IRA victims.

It was disclosed the Northern Ireland Policing Board gave the green light to the Libyan trip by a superintendent at the beginning of this year.

Ian Paisley J, then chairman of the board's human resources committee, signed off the move.

He has defended his decision saying: “Looking solely at a black and white picture of the situation in Libya and its relationship to Northern Ireland then the obvious course of action would have been to oppose any personnel deployment to that country.

“To be perfectly frank you don't have to be a genius to work out why it would be useful to have a senior officer who has got intelligence skills to look at Libya and bring that information back to us.”

The PSNI said their officer was on secondment to the National Policing Improvement Agency when the Foreign Office made a request for a “specifically skilled officer”.

It said it was satisfied all appropriate processes were followed and approval received.

A Scotland Yard spokesman declined to comment and referred questions to the NPIA.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey said: “This is a slap in the face for the family of Pc Yvonne Fletcher, not least because the murder inquiry is still open.

“While Libya remains such an authoritarian regime this must be a rapprochement too far,” he added.

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