14th November 2001
Police Use Plastic Bullets by Proxy
Clara Reilly, Chairperson of the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets said today:
“The United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets noted with dismay the
return of plastic bullets to the streets of North Belfast last weekend.
We also noted that all plastic bullets fired were fired at nationalists
and all injuries sustained were sustained by nationalists.
“It has since emerged that these plastic bullets were fired by the British army.
“The Campaign believes that this was a cynical move to allow the unaccountable use of plastic bullets.
“In the deployment of the British Army to the streets, the Police
Service of Northern Ireland operate under the policy of police primacy.
It is their decision to deploy the British Army and the British army
operates under the direction of the Chief Constable of the PSNI.
However we are now being told that despite this the Ombudsman has no
role in investigating the use of plastic bullets or the injuries
sustained as they were fired by the British Army.
“Given this and that we are being informed that there is no route of
accountability for their use to the new Police Board we are looking at
plastic bullets being fired with no method of accountability or redress.
“This runs contrary to everything John Reid said when he announced the
introduction of the new plastic bullet. On 2nd April when he announced
the introduction of a new more lethal form of plastic bullet the L21A1,
John Reid, in an effort to reassure the community, said: “We have now
introduced more stringent requirements concerning the deployment of
baton rounds and more transparency and accountability in this use.”
“We have to ask the question – Is the Police Service of Northern
Ireland using the British Army to fire plastic bullets as an
unaccountable mechanism of using lethal force against civilians? A case
of firing plastic bullets by proxy – and getting away with it. Under
the rules of police primacy it appears this is exactly what has
happened in North Belfast.
“By taking the decision that the British Army should be the force to
fire plastic bullets at nationalists, it is obvious that Securocrats in
the NIO and the PSNI have craftily side stepped any legislative
mechanisms that may possibly hold members of the PSNI accountable for
the use of plastic bullets – as was the case last weekend in North