Belfast Telegraph

PSNI has no reason to believe it will require outside help if there's hard Brexit: top officer

The PSNI plans to recruit 308 officers and staff by April 2020
The PSNI plans to recruit 308 officers and staff by April 2020

By David Young

A senior PSNI officer has said he does not expect to need reinforcements from other police forces this year to deal with a no-deal Brexit.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said putting precautionary procedures in place was part of a sensible planning process ahead of the EU exit at the end of March.

It follows UK media reports that almost 1,000 officers from across England and Scotland are being trained for deployment to Northern Ireland in case of disorder following a hard Brexit.

The PSNI is yet to make a formal request under mutual aid arrangements, which are in place to enable UK police forces to help each other at times of heightened demand.

Mr Hamilton said: "At the present time we do not have any reason to believe we will need to request mutual aid during 2019, but putting precautionary procedures in place for it is part of a sensible planning process. Planning around mutual aid happens every year across UK policing."

He said that normally the plans are in place for the summer months, but this year additional resources will be available from the date of the EU exit on March 29 in line with national contingency planning.

Mr Hamilton said: "Our view is that it is better to have precautionary plans in place and not use them, than find we may need additional police support but cannot have it because we have not alerted the National Police Coordination Centre in advance.

"While we plan for mutual aid, we will only ever use it when it is absolutely necessary and proportionate."

Policing support from Britain was requested in 2013 ahead of protests surrounding the holding of the G8 summit in Fermanagh, and significant public disorder linked to loyal order parades and counter-protests.

Mr Hamilton added: "Quite rightly, the public expect their police service to make plans to keep them safe in all eventualities and that is what PSNI will continue to do."

A statement from the National Police Chiefs Council said: "Police forces continue to prepare for possible eventualities as exit from the European Union draws nearer.

"As it stands, we have not received a formal request for mutual aid support from Police Service Northern Ireland."

In December the PSNI was awarded £16.48m to help prepare for Brexit.

The service plans to use the money to recruit 308 officers and staff by April 2020.

Some reports of the story, which emerged earlier this week, were accompanied by old images of PSNI officers tackling outbreaks of major public disorder.

DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said there was no evidence that the officers from Britain will be required.

"There is nothing to suggest any such events following our exit from the European Union," he said.

"Both the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom have said they will not impose any new infrastructure at the border, which could be the focus of any attack, so it is difficult to ascertain what eventualities the officers would train for."

Mr Wilson accused Theresa May's Government of using scare tactics to try to put pressure on MPs to back her EU withdrawal agreement.

"It is important people do not needlessly create alarm," he added. "Over the last few days we have seen some old tactics being used in the new year."

A potential threat from the Brexit falout has previously been highlighted by PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton.

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