16 March 2005 Edition

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Families express dismay at new generation of plastic bullets

Clara Reilly, Chairperson of Relatives for Justice, has expressed the dismay of families bereaved as a result of the use of plastic bullets at news that Hugh Orde is purchasing a new generation of plastic bullets without the approval of the police board.

The new bullets will continue to be fired from the same guns, at the same velocity as the current plastic bullets, but will require PSNI members to be retrained.

The purchase is imminent and it is understood the PSNI believes it does not require authority for the move from the Policing Board.

Up to 50,000 of the new AEP plastic bullets could be purchased by the PSNI at a cost of approximately £7 each.

In June last year, representatives from Relatives for Justice, the United Campaign against Plastic Bullets, the Pat Finucane Centre and British Irish Rights Watch met the NIO's Police Reforms Division and were shown the newly developed bullets.

Research not complete

During the meeting, the NIO admitted that research into the new model was not complete.

They also said that if the new weapon were to be deployed for the summer of 2005, it would need to be ordered by the PSNI in the autumn of 2004.

Commenting after the meeting, a spokesperson for the RFJ and plastic bullet campaigner Clara Reilly said it was, "disgraceful" that the introduction of yet another plastic bullet "would even be countenanced when the research into and development process of the AEP is acknowledged as incomplete.

"If Huge Orde continues in ordering these plastic bullets, he is totally undermining the police board and the role they should have in these crucial issues. If the board does not hold him to account, they are undermining their own role," she said.

Reilly also criticised the fact this latest model of plastic bullet was being introduced without any impact assessment on the threat to children - who are the most common and vulnerable victims of plastic bullets.

"There are no reports on ricochet effects, despite this having been a cause for concern since the development of the current bullet, the LA21," said Reilly.

Kathleen Duffy, mother of Séamus Duffy, the last child killed by a plastic bullet, described this situation as disgraceful. "It seems to me that there are members of the police board who say publicly they are against plastic bullets, but because they are on the police board they don't want to debate the purchasing the new bullets, so they have this backdoor agreement with Hugh Orde," she said.

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