Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

Peter Robinson take note: law and order is not a numbers game

Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson

When is it right to carry out a religious headcount in the justice system?

Unionists used to be against 50/50 Catholic/Protestant recruitment in the PSNI. It was often denounced as sectarian, until it was ended a year ago after the number of Catholic officers reached 30%.

Many unionists argued that applicants must be chosen on merit regardless – not communal arithmetic.

That makes it hard to explain why there is so much angst over the 'perceived' religious, or political, balance among people bailed on public disorder offences.

Before departing for Rio, Peter Robinson started a row with the police and judiciary over the fact that many loyalist flag protesters were not getting bail, while republicans did. He said that was the perception.

Now that the figures have come out, we can see that the perception was skewed. Many republican protesters in Ardoyne last year were held on remand until the end of the marching season – just as some loyalist flag protesters are held now until the unrest subsides.

This only happens to a minority: of 215 arrested in the recent flag protests, only 20 are currently on remand.

There is a good argument for letting them out as things calm down.

There is no real argument for releasing loyalist suspects, unless you can find an equivalent number of nationalists to keep banged up at the same time.

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