Belfast Telegraph

PSNI 'too embarrassed' to admit the number of DNA tests on seized Troubles weapons: TUV's Allister

TUV leader Jim Allister
TUV leader Jim Allister

TUV leader Jim Allister has said the PSNI is "too embarrassed" to admit how many of the seized Troubles-era guns they hold have been DNA tested.

The MLA was speaking after The News Letter revealed the organisation has 3,000 weapons linked to crimes during the Troubles.

Mr Allister met with PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne on Wednesday to discuss the issue and said that he was "astounded" to be told the story was true and that the weapons had not already been tested.

The North Antrim MLA said that the news would be "incredible and unacceptable" to Troubles victims.

The PSNI had previously declined to say how many of the weapons had been tested citing "investigative and operational reasons".

“They are not saying because they are too embarrassed, I would have thought, by the relatively small number that have been DNA tested," Mr Allister said.

“If it was a situation where 90% had been done I am sure they would be telling us."

Mr Allister revealed details of his meeting with the Chief Constable.

“And I said ‘well why have these weapons not been tested – surely we should have a database?’. And I was told they would be tested as investigations became interested in that particular weapon," he said.

“So I pressed the need for being proactive and testing all the weapons. And the chief constable could see the wisdom of what we were talking about and said he would consider it.”

George Clarke, assistant chief constable with responsibility for legacy issues (PA)
George Clarke, assistant chief constable with responsibility for legacy issues (PA)

Mr Allister said that police should have a database of DNA from the weapons.

“There should be a proactive and exhaustive investigation into these weapons. It is incredible that this has not already taken place," the TUV leader said.

In response to Mr Allister's comments Assistant Chief Constable George Clarke said that the 3,000 weapons included those which were both "Troubles and non-Troubles related".

He said that the weapons would have been forensically tested when they were recovered using the techniques available at that time.

ACC Clarke said that many of the weapons were from cases already being reviewed and that many would have undergone scientific analysis not available when they were seized, including DNA examination.

He said that decisions on testing the weapons which could be used for prosecutions would be made "on a case-by-case basis" using the most modern methods available.

ACC Clarke said this was "the most effective way" to establish if the weapons could provide further evidence.

Mr Allister said that police were missing the point.

“They still do not address the need for a proactive up-to-date forensic examination of all weapons held to see if they open up any investigative leads,” the TUV leader said.

“There is no logical reason proffered as to why this should not happen. What ACC Clarke is talking about is reactive examination in response to a particular investigation.”

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