Baton round use urged during disorder

Published Wednesday, 05 June 2013
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Early and rapid deployment of AEP baton rounds is needed to quell public disorder on Northern Ireland's streets, the Police Federation of NI's chairman has said.

Baton round use urged during disorder
Riot police pictured during unrest on the lower Newtownards Road in Belfast. (© Presseye)

Terry Spence made the comments at the organisation's 41st annual conference at the La Mon Hotel.

"We are not cannon fodder," he told invited guests and delegates from police representative bodies from throughout Britain, Ireland and northern Europe.

He was referring to weeks of sporadic rioting which broke out after the decision of councillors at Belfast City Hall in December to only fly the Union Flag on designated days, during which numerous police officers were injured.

"Much of our initial difficulty and injuries can be attributed to us slavishly following the Association of Chief Police Officers' guidelines on tactics to be deployed in the use of baton rounds in public order confrontations.

"To put it bluntly, we were policing public order in Northern Ireland according to guidelines more appropriate for the rest of the United Kingdom," he explained.

What is needed to subdue or prevent public confrontation is the early and rapid deployment of AEP baton rounds. The sight of AEPs tends to concentrate the minds of potential rioters.

Terry Spence, Police Federation of NI

"Their early use keeps rioters at sufficient distance to prevent an array of sometimes deadly missiles bombarding officers from every direction."

Mr Spence continued, saying that too often it is "fear of adverse comment from our politicians" that inhibits senior officers from fulfilling their duty of care to the men and women on the ground.

"Unless our approach to dealing with public confrontation is understood to be robust from the beginning then the cost of holding the line during the frequent breakdowns in normal politics in Northern Ireland will always be paid by ordinary police officers. "

He highlighted that there was a continued public order threat from loyalist paramilitaries and the East Belfast UVF in particular.

"This protest is a sad reflection of two problems now deeply rooted in our society - the lack of progress in community relations and the economic reality facing young people, who do not stay in education or cannot find jobs."

Since July 2012, there have been over 448 officers injured as a result of public order, he said.

"Since December, 136 officers have been injured specifically as a result of the flag protest.

"It also seems to be a matter of misplaced pride that we have upheld the human rights of loyalists, egged on by elected politicians, many of them occupying senior party positions, to protest on the streets against what was clearly a democratically taken decision by Belfast City Council."

Mr Spence said that his Federation has "a different perspective on what we ought to take pride in."

"And it's certainly not the pretence that protestors have the right to disrupt the working, social and business life of the rest of the population.

"My colleagues in the frontline would also dispute what the PSNI appears to believe constitutes a serious injury.

"Being struck with iron bars, axes and concrete slabs so that limbs are broken or severely bruised. Noses broken, because visors are being smashed into faces. Shoulders dislocated so that an officer may be on sick leave for months are nothing less than serious injuries.

"Injuries are also frequently accompanied by post traumatic stress disorder and that cannot be dismissed as anything less than potentially serious."

Social deprivation is fertile ground for paramilitaries.

Terry Spence, Police Federation of NI

Discussing the Good Friday agreement, he said that while Northern Ireland is a safer place to live, the region has "not progressed as much as we would like to pretend when we go looking for foreign inward investment and tourists."

"In many respects our community relations have not progressed at all.

"Wave a flag and our society, from its most senior ministers to our most socially and materially deprived people can find common cause. All pretensions to a new and brighter Northern Ireland go out the window as they reveal a mindset unable to move beyond 1690 or 1916."

Highlighting the severe threat from the dissident republican paramilitaries, he described them as a sad group of misfits, "who cannot accept that violence in pursuit of any political objective, has no place in a democracy."

"Since January we have had 16 shooting incidents and 33 bombing incidents," he continued.

"The proposal by the Home Secretary that conviction for the murder of a police or prison officer should result in a whole life tariff, something we as a Federation have called for in the recent past, would be warmly welcomed by my members here in Northern Ireland

"I would also suggest that members of the judiciary should also be included within the scope of the legislation. There is no other place in the United Kingdom where public servants are routinely targeted for murder as custodians of the law. This is a change in the law which could bring some sobering focus to young terrorists," he added.

"We have major concerns about the coming together of these disparate groups, together with their increasing sophistication and utter disregard for the risk of incidental casualties.

"Paramilitary beatings and assaults, have resulted in serious and in most cases permanent injury to 36 civilians. Nine have been shot in what passes for justice among the terrorists.

"Despite the level of active threat, the PSNI, through pro active policing, have been able to make significant arrests. Working closely with An Garda Siochana in the past year we have arrested over 157 suspected terrorists and have brought 50 before the courts."

Mr Spence also voiced his concern over the number of young people, who have appeared before the courts in relation to terrorism.

He said they would hardly have been old enough to be at school at any time during the Troubles.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
M in Belfast wrote (605 days ago):
Tommy, the article focused on all, from disident republicans to rioters, mentioned psni and politicians also. You seem to be the only one singling out the flag protesters. Agree people, regardless of who they are have a right to protest, dont have a right to riot, throw missiles, steal and burn cars, intimidate people, put stress on peoples livelyhoods and jobs or stop people going about their business. Think you may find the reference to flag protests contained within the article was based on those points. As far as all the shouting "about the peaceful protests" , peaceful protests dont deserve a medal. A protest is made to highlight a cause that people feel strongly about , to make a point, many many protests did that and well , but being peaceful is no more than is expected of decent people. No condoning of illegal violent intimidatory protests is acceptable regardless of who the protesters are.
Pádraig in Béal Feirste wrote (605 days ago):
Just as the fleg protests are coming to an end and the marching season is about to begin. What a well timed call from our fair and impartial police force.
David in Belfast wrote (605 days ago):
well said Mr Spence. ...some thugs should be thankful your officers were so restrained ....where do the thugs want to AEP or real lead country???
PD in Belfast wrote (605 days ago):
Police are quick to take out the batons and drag people - many of whom women and elderly people - off the roads during peaceful protests against Orange supremacist marches through their areas, so the same should be applied to the Loyalist thugs who were actually causing mayhem and destruction in response to a democrat decision. It cannot continue to be one rule for nationalist and another rule for Loyalists. It's 2013; the days of loyalist supremacy are long-gone and this needs to be accepted.
Tomc in Belfast wrote (605 days ago):
Can't argue with a word Mr Spence has said.
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