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PSNI funding crisis: Budget cuts to police force 'impossible' says Chief Constable George Hamilton

The PSNI is facing "impossible" levels of budget cuts which will "fundamentally change how policing is delivered", Chief Constable George Hamilton has warned.

Addressing the massive budget crisis facing Northern Ireland's force at a meeting of the Policing Board today, George Hamilton said the level of cuts means that "6963 police officers is no longer affordable".

He said frontline policing would be forced to change as a result of the funding crisis - which amount to cuts of over £51 million.

"We are required to save £51.4 million in the next six months," he said.

"This is over £5 million more than what it takes to run our largest policing district for a year."

The cuts are set to include:

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- the loss of 300 temporary workers

- a reduction in community policing

- a recruitment freeze

- longer waiting times for police attendance to non-emergencies

- overall budget cuts of between 10-15% next year

Today's announcement comes after the Belfast Telegraph revealed that lives could be put at risk as a result of staff cuts.

In a confidential briefing seen by the paper, Mr Hamilton warned that there will now be a "reduced ability to keep people safe, prevent and detect crime, leading to Article 2 (the right to life) risks".

The document also states that fewer police vehicles will be available for deployment, roads policing will be affected and all police stations, except those in large urban areas, will now only open part-time.

Speaking today, George Hamilton said "policing will have to focus on where vulnerability and need is greatest".

"The operational outworking of such a pure demand led model is likely to adversely affect the level of reassurance that policing delivers in areas of lower demand, generally more rural areas.

"There will be longer waiting times for Police attendance to non-emergency calls."

Among the cuts, the majority of police investigating the shooting dead of 13 civil rights protesters by soldiers on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972 are to be laid off.

Mr Hamilton said the current recruitment process for officers would be "substantially slower" while the brakes have been put on a further intake of staff.

"With recruitment plans significantly reduced, it is anticipated that police officer headcount will decline over the next three years through retirements," he said.

He said a significant reduction in overtime will mean "delays to police operations which require additional police officer support".

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Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972

Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972

Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972

"It is inevitable that there will be more regular abstraction of police officers from core policing duties across Northern Ireland."

The bulk of police officers investigating the Bloody Sunday killings will also lose their jobs as part of the harsh cost-cutting faced by the force.

John Kelly, whose brother Michael was among 14 who died after British paratroopers opened fire, said justice had been sacrificed.

Mr Kelly said: "We are totally devastated and very angry."

Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney said "there must be no scaling down of this investigation".

"I am calling on the PSNI to ensure it is properly resourced so that the families can get justice at long last."

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