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PSNI could do another deal to train Qatari officers in the run-up to football World Cup

By Deborah McAleese

Published 06/05/2016

The St Regis Doha hotel where Chief Constable George Hamilton stayed
The St Regis Doha hotel where Chief Constable George Hamilton stayed
Chief Constable George Hamilton's deputy Drew Harris

The PSNI have not ruled out a new deal with the oil-rich state of Qatar to train officers ahead of the World Cup.

Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris defended the PSNI's relationship with Qatar and said it would be "parochial and inward" not to assist other policing organisations around the world.

Last year the Qatar Government paid the PSNI almost £60,000 for 10 days of public order and riot training in the Gulf state - which has been heavily criticised for human rights abuses.

The state also hosted Chief Constable George Hamilton as a no-expense-spared VIP guest in October to "foster relationships" with the Qatar Ministry of Interior. He was put up in luxurious St Regis Doha hotel, said to be "the finest address" in the country.

The Qatar government is keen for the PSNI to provide further training assistance.

Mr Harris said the organisation has yet to decide if it is in a position to provide that assistance, but did not rule it out.

"We have to review where we are with other programmes that we are committed to already. You just can't do everything that people ask of you.

"Demand for all we could do outstrips our ability to supply. We will apply our decision-making matrix - capacity to do it and ability to commit to the scale they want," said Mr Harris.

Following criticism from human rights activists over the PSNI's relationship with the nation, Mr Harris said a country's human rights record is given serious consideration before any request for assistance is agreed.

The senior officer revealed that the PSNI also recently provided policing assistance to Jordan, Oman and Lebanon.

Mr Harris insisted that the PSNI's international assistance programmes were not about making money. Last year, Chief Constable George Hamilton told the Northern Ireland Policing Board that income could be generated from the provision of training to Qatari police.

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But Mr Harris told the Belfast Telegraph: "There's not really (a financial benefit). We are covering our costs. We are not making a profit. Qatar covered our loses. We are not a profit organisation. They are paying for our time."

"In the context of our budget (Qatar) was just going to be loose change. Our budget in this year is £715m. A 1% cut of that budget is £7m. There's no way we are going to see £7m out of these programmes.

"What this is far more about is our ability to help. It is about helping out in some of the crises around the world."

In addition to Qatar, PSNI officers have provided community policing advice to Jordan, which is trying to cope with floods of Syrian and Iraqi refugees," Mr Harris revealed.

He said that in Oman, which is next door to Yemen where there is a lot of civil unrest, advice has been provided around public order policing. Also, in Lebanon, PSNI officers have been delivering guidance on police reform.

"There is a public good that we are able to assist another law enforcement agency in a crisis situation. People want to bring up their standards of policing and that is why they are coming to us. We see it as a real compliment," said Mr Harris.

"It would be very parochial and inward looking not to assist in this world, where everything is connected. We are intimately connected with what happens in the Middle East. It is in our interest to assist," he added.

Mr Harris continued: "Not everybody is at the standard we are at as a Western European democracy. It is unrealistic to expect that. People are coming to us genuinely because they want to improve their own police service."

Belfast Telegraph

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