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Not enough PSNI officers to deal with Union flag protests, claims Police Federation

The Police Federation, which represents the rank and file of the PSNI, has said the force had no option but to act the way it did over the Union flag protests four years ago, given officer numbers.

The PFNI was reacting after a Belfast resident won a case at the UK's highest court over the failure of Northern Ireland police to prevent the protests between December 2012 and February 2013.

Five Supreme Court justices in London ruled unanimously in favour of the unnamed resident, announcing that the police did have the legal power to stop the parades.

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Mass loyalist demonstrations, some of which descended into serious violence, were staged across Northern Ireland in opposition to Belfast City Council's decision to limit the number of days the Union flag flew over city hall.

The PFNI said the PSNI had no option but to police protest parades in the manner with which it did.

Chairman Mark Lindsay said: “Given the fact that the PSNI was hundreds of officers short of the peacetime minimum, it would have been impossible to deal with widespread trouble if orders were given to prevent illegal parades.

“As it was, we had more than 100 Officers injured in serious street disorder. A below-strength service would not have had sufficient resilience to robustly deal with un-notified parades.

“Today is no different. In fact, we have fewer Officers on the payroll now than we did in 2012. The interpretation of the law is one thing, but having sufficient numbers present to uphold the law is quite another matter.

“We must not delude ourselves that being 700 short of a peacetime figure is sufficient. Our numbers are dangerously eroded and the sooner that fact is acknowledged by the Chief Constable and our political paymasters, the better.”

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Chief Constable George Hamilton insisted he had enough officers to do the job - despite confirming that numbers were 700 below what was recommended in the Patten Report on policing.

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