Statement by Clara Reilly, Chairperson Relatives for Justice and United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets:
The debate following the serious disorder in London and other cities in England this week has including a debate of possible weaponry could be employed by police. The calls for the deployment of water cannon and plastic bullets have been loud and heated.
Muted tempering of these calls have been made. These have ranged from “because we have a different attitude to the culture of policing here” by Home Secretary Theresa May, to statements of plastic bullets are “controversial” in the North of Ireland.
Former PSNI Chief Constable and now ACPO President Sir Hugh Orde has stated that “I do not think it would be sensible in any way shape or form to deploy water cannon or baton rounds in London”. (See notes below)
Last night Prime Minister David Cameron said the police would have “whatever they need”, implying that they might use plastic bullets. Although none were used.
Indeed even yesterday’s Guardian gave an unclear reference to the use of plastic bullets in “the Province” saying “around 20 people have been killed”.
Here are the facts
17 people were killed
9 of those killed were children
NONE of those killed was involved in rioting
Often the use of plastic bullets was the actual cause of subsequent civil disturbance
The police and British army’s own rules governing the use of plastic bullets were broken in every instance
MILLIONS of pounds in compensation have been paid by the state to those who suffered long term life diminishing injuries as a result of the use of plastic bullets
No member of the British army RUC or PSNI has ever been convicted for any of the above harms.
Theresa May is correct that there is a different attitude to the culture of policing in England. This summer has proven that. As plastic bullets were used as a weapon of first resort in East and North Belfast, Ballyclare and Portadown against both Protestants and Catholics by the PSNI, they were not on the policing agenda in London, Liverpool or Manchester. They have never been in any civil disturbance whether in Brixton or in Bradford in years past.
Nor should they be – plastic bullets did nothing whatsoever to address the rioting in Ireland. They did not save lives or property. They made finding long term solutions more difficult in those communities and undermined the position of the PSNI, its Chief Constable and their stated commitments to human rights policing.
We call on the Policing Board to reflect on these comments and this context and move now to remove plastic bullets from the PSNI armoury and introduce a ban on their use.
Plastic bullets are never a solution.
On January 12th 2007 then PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde gave a commitment that plastic bullets would never again be used in crowd control situations and expressed his desire that they would never again be used in the North of Ireland.
Relatives for Justice is a human rights NGO working across the North of Ireland with people bereaved and injured during the conflict. Founded in 1991 the organisation’s work includes family support services, therapeutic interventions and legal and advocacy support.