Ex-PSNI chief Hugh Orde deployed plastic bullets in Northern Ireland but opposes use in England
Former PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde has said using plastic bullets and water cannon during the summer riots in England would have been inappropriate.
The current head of the Association of Chief Police Officers was the senior police officer in Northern Ireland for seven years after being appointed Chief Constable in 2002.
Under his leadership, officers frequently deployed baton rounds and water cannon when dealing with crowds and riot situations across the province.
His comments follow the publication of a report into the handling of the rioting that took place across England earlier this year.
Policing watchdog Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary suggested that both plastic bullets and water cannon could have been used in the riots in a “number of real scenarios”.
Speaking yesterday, Sir Hugh reiterated comments made earlier this year that tactics needed to stay true to the “British policing model”.
“We rely absolutely on the professional judgment of the individual officers who are holding the positions as to what the most effective tactic is,” said Sir Hugh.
“The notion that if someone tries to set fire to a building you
shoot them, flies in the face of everything in the British policing model and, frankly, citizens would not accept it.”
Writing in the Guardian newspaper in August, he said that as “one of only two officers in the country” to have issued the use of “baton rounds in public-order policing” his professional judgment was that “it would be the wrong tactic, in the wrong circumstances, at this moment”.
He added: “Utilising baton rounds, an even more severe tactic, is fundamentally to protect life. When I ordered their use, again in Northern Ireland, my officers were being attacked by blast bombs and live fire.
“I would always use both with a heavy heart, but it is always an issue of proportionality.”
The SDLP’s policing spokesman Conall McDevitt said he hoped that the former Chief Constable’s opposition to the use of plastic bullets in England would now also apply to their use in Northern Ireland.
“My view is that plastic bullets cannot be justified in any circumstances,” he said.
“I hope his experience has proved to him the futility of plastic bullets and I hope in reflection he accepts these weapons should not be used.
“If Hugh Orde considers them an inappropriate weapon in Great Britain, then I hope he would have the same view here as well.”