Baggott denies PSNI 'unfairness'

Published Tuesday, 05 March 2013
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Chief Constable Matt Baggott has denied First Minister Peter Robinson's accusations of "perceived unfairness" in the PSNI's policing of the flag demonstrations, as protestors called for politicians to join them on the streets.

Baggott denies PSNI 'unfairness'
The PSNI Chief Constable spoke after meeting with the First Minister. (© Pacemaker)

Mr Baggott said his officers had successfully dealt with an "incredibly volatile situation [...] a situation made all the more difficult by the absence of political consensus".

Police previously warned there would be consequences to the weeks of disorder surrounding Union flag protests, and the Chief Constable added: "There should be no surprises with the outcomes."

He spoke out after he met with Mr Robinson at Stormont on Monday, where they discussed a number of policing issues.

The meeting came after a number of high profile loyalist flag protestors were arrested and charged by police last week.

Each case is unique and I have not seen any unfair interpretation of the rules or due process.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott

Following the meeting, the First Minister said: "There is a perception in the unionist community that, when you see several leading republicans getting bail and several leading members of the loyalist community not getting bail, there is a lack of balance in the way that these matters are dealt with."

But Mr Baggott said police have "received very favourable feedback from across all communities regarding our measured approach".

"I reminded the First Minister that prosecutions and bail decisions are made independently by the PPS and judiciary against very stringent criteria," he added.

Mr Baggott added: "Policing does not hold the solutions alone to the current dispute and grievances which require renewed political dialogue and innovation. In this regard, I will support fully the development of the Shared Future Strategy and look forward to this with optimism."

Meanwhile a statement from the Ulster People's Forum, which has been linked to the organisation of months of flag protests across NI, called for Unionist politicians to support the weekly demonstration at Belfast City Hall.

The organisation also called for Orange Order members to "stand with their people in all areas and for the protest at City Hall on Saturdays".

Our political representatives expect support come election time and the Orange Order expect support at each parade throughout the province every parade season.

Ulster People's Forum

"For too long our people have been standing alone. The time has come for that to change."

The organisation's spokesman, Jamie Bryson, was remanded into custody last week. The 23-year-old faces charges including encouraging or assisting offences and taking part in an unnotified public procession.

Loyalist campaigner Willie Frazer, was also charged with taking part in an unnotified public procession and obstructing traffic in a public place. The 52-year-old was remanded in custody to appear in court again later in March.

DUP MLA Paul Givan said his party leader was right to raise the issue.

There are concerns, whether that's real or perceived, it's there nevertheless and that needs to be addressed and I trust the Chief Constable will be able to address those concerns over the next number of weeks.

DUP MLA Paul Givan

UUP assembly member Danny Kennedy supported Peter Robinson's claims that the unionist community has serious concerns about policing.

"I think there is an increasing perception within my constituency, from a unionist perspective, that recent decisions have been showing them considerable concern," he said.

However SDLP policing spokesperson Conall McDevitt said Mr Robinson's comments serve "only to undermine the PSNI".

He said his party will consider whether the comments are against the ministerial code and whether a complaint should be made.

"He really should reflect on how unwise he was to make political comment around operational policing. It gives the impression that he wants to direct the PSNI and that is not something the First Minister should ever do," Mr McDevitt explained.

While Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly claimed there is impartiality in policing but he said it is against nationalists.

"Peter Robinson mentioned the perception of a section of the unionist community and he's probably right, it is a perception, but it's not the reality," he said.

"The reality is that the policing over this period of time was actually used against nationalists."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
48 Comments
martin in belfast wrote (538 days ago):
The figures released yesterday blow any arguement loyalist had out of the water.
Rab in Belfast wrote (539 days ago):
Do people actually read what they write on here Peter Robinsons comments recently are a disgrace an absolute disgrace the first minister represents everyone not just a slected few i am completely disgusted as a protestant man too have anyone like this represent me you wont be getting my vote. Go and look at a real representative like David Ford an honorable man who makes good decisions. New blood is required and that goes for the nationalist representatives as well get new men and women in who are not going to continue the cycle of sectarian rubbish. Jobs and investment are the main concerns do something about it and willy and that other idiot deserved to go to jail as they were blocking the road which caused me hassle
John in Newtownabbey wrote (540 days ago):
So Peter and Paul, the Unionist community has a perception of unfairness. Well then come clean and tell us if you believe the "perception" is right or wrong. Are you accusing the Police and the Judiciary as well as the voters you are trying to attract? Grow a pair and tell the truth.
Ryan in Belfast wrote (540 days ago):
I have to say that its good to see a police force here that is balanced and fair in its approuch and i have to give credit where credit is due, Matt Baggott, i feel, has been doing a great job over these last couple of weeks, which was a very difficult situation. It was a situation made 10x worse because unionist politicans were not willing to come out and take charge and lead their voters, instead they locked themselves away. These loyalist protestors were illegally protesting, blocking roads, attacking elected representatives property and their offices, they cost millions to businesses, etc and yet their complaining when they get arrested? Some of these loyalists need to seriously wake up, the orange statelet and its police force is long gone, everyones EQUAL now, no one gets favouritism. Well done to Matt Baggott and the PSNI.
Rab in Belfast wrote (540 days ago):
Matt you did your job you and your officers were slow in doing it but you get there in the end which should have happened when these protests started happening in the first place. I am a protestant man and i am absoultely disgusted with the polictial representation for unionism at present Peter Robinson does not seem to know what hes doing or what hes talking about his recent comments are a disgrace people who break the law go to jail and i think you should study law sir and learn thats its not the PSNI who determine bail conditions its the courts so after this recent display of stupitity i think Mr Robinson should consider his position as i do not believe he is fit for purpose
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