Belfast Telegraph

Cricket cheats' return like terrorist releases: Sir Ronnie Flanagan

By Adrian Rutherford

Former Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan has likened the return of three disgraced Pakistan cricketers to the release of terrorist prisoners after the Good Friday Agreement.

Sir Ronnie said there was a distinction between bringing people to justice and their subsequent reintegration into society.

The 66-year-old - Northern Ireland's most senior police officer from 1996 to 2002 - is now head of international cricket's anti-fraud unit.

The body was set up in the wake of a series of match-fixing scandals to rock the sport.

In one of the most high-profile recent cases, three Pakistan cricketers were banned for spot fixing.

Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were caught in a newspaper sting plotting to bowl deliberate no-balls in a match against England in 2010.

Knowing when no-balls will be bowled can be of great value in betting scams.

The three were jailed and given five-year bans.

The bans ended on September 1, and they will now undergo a six-month rehabilitation programme before they can return to international cricket.

Asked if any should be picked for international duty by Pakistan again, Sir Ronnie said it was now the responsibility of Pakistan Cricket Board.

In the interview with he compared it to the situation facing him as Chief Constable after the Good Friday Agreement.

"I think back to the times when I was a Chief Constable in Northern Ireland, and when we had the peace process going forward," Sir Ronnie said.

"For example, part of that peace process was that prisoners were released earlier than they might have been, and I was often asked, in a sense, slightly similar questions.

"My answer was always: I answer that from a personal point of view and from a professional point of view. In those days my professional responsibility was to bring people into the criminal justice system, and it was the responsibility of other elements of that system to deal with them. And it's just like that in cricket."

Sir Ronnie said his professional responsibility as chairman of the Anti-Corruption Unit is to bring people caught match-fixing to justice.

He told "What actually happens to them thereafter has to be a matter for an independent tribunal."

Sir Ronnie called those who tried to corrupt the game "most evil". He reassured fans that his team was doing "everything humanly possible" to stop illegal practices.

"We can make the game a very difficult environment for those who would seek to bring corruption to bear," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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