Survivors respond to Police Ombudsman report

United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets
235a Falls Road
BT12 4PE

28th May 2002

Survivors respond to Police Ombudsman report on Plastic Bullets

Following the publication of the Police Ombudsman’s report in to 7 uses
of plastic bullets over a 12 month period the United Campaign Against
Plastic Bullets has expressed its dismay. Clara Reilly Chairperson of
the group said:

“Yesterday we had grave reservations about this report feeling that it
was limited and might give justification to the use of plastic bullets
on the streets. Today upon reading the report not only have our fears
been completely confirmed but any confidence we may have had in a
process of independent investigation by the office of the Ombudsman has
been eroded.

“The introduction of the report acts on the assumption that the weapon
currently being used is a replacement of the weapon which has killed 17
people and seriously wounded hundreds. It is not. Last June John Reid
introduced a more sophisticated and more deadly version of the plastic
bullet. On the basis that it was supposedly more accurate and
procedures surrounding its use more stringent, the public were
reassured that this development meant that plastic bullets are now
safe. People interested in the safety of our civilian population could
gain only one conclusion from this report – these promises are not
being met and unaccountable lethal weapons are still being used as a
policing method against civilians.”

It is apparent that this report repeats the RUC members/police officers reports almost verbatim.

  • There is no evidence of interview with those injured by plastic bullets over the 12 month period.

  • There
    is no reference to the firing of plastic bullets by the British army
    deployed under Police Primacy, while not in the firm terms of reference
    a genuinely independent report would surely have at least referred to
    this unaccountable abuse or flagged up this anomaly.

  • There is no
    significance made of the abuse of the rules governing the use of
    plastic bullets where 3 people have been hit in the torso in their
    report – which is a dangerous use of this lethal weapon and under their
    own research says that injuries could be life threatening if sustained
    in the upper body area.

  • There is no
    mention made that of the full number of plastic bullets fired during
    this period of time and circumstances surrounding them.

  • There is no
    investigation of the bullets which “missed” their targets. Were the
    people using the guns insufficiently trained, was the weaponry faulty
    and what happened to the bullets following discharge if they did not
    hit their targets? The effects of ricochet of this bullet is still a
    source of mystery as the Home Office and NIO refuse to publish the
    research findings.

  • There is no
    evidence of logging the number of civil cases being taken against the
    PSNI as a result of injuries sustained by plastic bullets.

  • There is no
    evidence that there is an examination of policing methods used in
    advance of the firing of plastic bullets, in order to contain
    situations, being practised here – such as in Oldham.

  • On only one
    occasion was there evidence of any effort made by the RUC entering into
    dialogue with a local community, in a loyalist area of Lurgan and it
    was quite evident that this change in policing method was effective in
    reducing tension and securing a positive outcome. However despite
    referring to this one incident in the report there was no
    recommendation given that this is a preferred option or method of
    policing. Rather there is only full justification to the RUC/PSNI
    firing lethal weapons at unidentified people – surely at a bare minimum
    any “independent” report would have undoubtedly would have made an
    observation on proper policing tactics.

“This is an
inadequate report which does no justice to the office of the Police
Ombudsman and does little to instil confidence in its procedures.

It is hard not to conclude that there was a predetermined outcome to
this report. We do not believe the timing of this report to be
coincidental, as its justification of the use of plastic bullets comes
just 2 weeks after one of the worst cases of a belligerent RUC/PSNI
attack using plastic bullets on a local community in Short Strand.