Heated exchanges as Policing Board meet

Published Thursday, 06 March 2014
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There have been heated exchanges between the DUP and the PSNI Chief Constable over the On-the-Runs controversy at the public monthly meeting of the Policing Board.

Heated exchanges as Policing Board meet
Matt Baggott insists board members were briefed. (© Pacemaker)

It also emerged that police have met families of the Hyde Park bombing victims, with more talks due to take place next week.

It comes after the collapse of the trial of John Downey who denied charges of involvement in the 1982 London Hyde Park bombing.

Mr Downey was mistakenly informed by the PSNI in 2007 that there was no interest in him from them, or any other police force across the UK in relation to the attack.

When the letter was revealed in court, the trial judge threw the case out.

It later emerged 187 so-called letters of comfort had been sent to those suspected of terrorist crimes.

On Thursday the DUP board members kept pressing the Chief Constable about the on-the-run scheme, Operation Rapid.

Jonathan Craig, the party's Lagan Valley MLA, said: "You have made it clear time and time again that this was a legal process, it was not an amnesty, it was not all of these things.

"If that was the case and nobody out there was ever going to interpret it as anything other than that, why were we not briefed on it?"

Let me be clear about this. You were briefed.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott

The Chief Constable insisted that they had been briefed - in private in 2007, at a public Policing Board in 2010 and in follow up correspondence.

"I know there is a role for politicians here to make their points. I'll just answer that again - it's not for me to comment upon anything around the politics of that process, how it came to be and the way it ran.

"The judgment is very clear in relation to the chronology and I would urge you and refer you to that judgement."

Sinn Féin insist unionists were aware of the OTR scheme all along, and that all the correspondence given to the board backs that up.

Gerry Kelly, the party's north Belfast MLA, said: "To sit here and talk, simply because you have never heard the word 'rapid', that you didn't get any information is utter nonsense.

"There was information given. You may dislike the amount of information that was given but, then be honest enough to say that."

The Chief Constable said he would provide the board with the terms of reference for Operation Rapid and apologised to the Hyde Park families. Officers met them earlier on Thursday, and Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris will meet them next week.

Thursday's row overshadowed Judith Gillespie's last board meeting as deputy chief constable.

The highest ranking female officer in the region, she is stepping down after more than 30 years in the PSNI.

"Integrity, thoughtfulness and professionalism in the way she has led the PSNI has led us to a place of the highest confidence in policing ever achieved. I actually think that has an awful lot to do with the leadership of Judith Gillespie," Mr Baggott said.

"I can't thank her enough for the constant support and sound advice that she has given me as chief constable. We will miss her leadership very dearly and we wish her every success for the future," he added.

© UTV News
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5 Comments
martin in belfast wrote (283 days ago):
all parties were briefed. all parties knew exactly what was going on. I doubt that any of the main parties will lose any votes over this.
AK in Ireland wrote (285 days ago):
Bore off lorna
Michael in Templepatrick wrote (286 days ago):
Peter Robinson, your 'crisis' has failed miserably.
lorna in limavady wrote (286 days ago):
A question i would love the chief to answer. when and how did the "on the runs" cease to be not wanted for questioning by the police for serious crime?Surely since they became fugitives at one time they should still be until the proper investigations into the past is completed.To say this is not an amnesty is confusing.it is like the word amnesty has another meaning. like collusion !
stone turner in belfast wrote (286 days ago):
I wish the chief constable and co well in the future and if or when they move to new posts they show the integrity that has served us so well here in N.I and we the public should not keep private our views.nor be rapid with judgement. As all that glitters is not? we would not want a psni-met, god forbid.
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