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30 August 2001 Edition

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Young nationalist's RUC nightmare

One young man is living proof of why the debate on policing cannot be allowed end this week. His story gives the lie to SDLP claims that enough has been achieved in terms of policing in the North.Three years ago, Bernard Griffin was just 19 when he was dragged into the back of an RUC Land Rover, where he was threatened, badly beaten and abused. To add insult to injury, he was then unsuccessfully prosecuted for assaulting his atackers. When his attackers were brought to justice, his home was raided by the same police force and a coffee jar bomb was conveniently found. This case also collapsed but both Bernard and his brother have since faced harassment by the RUC.
Theirs is an all too familiar story but for one fact. Griffin was fortunate that his case came into the public arena and attempts to silence or jail him failed. He has now received compensation of £100,000, a sum that illustrates the extent of the injustice caused to the young man, but he still fears for his safety.

Bernard Griffin's story illustrates prefectly why we cannot settle for half measures on policing. The SDLP once argued for the full implementation of the Patten Report but now they, with the backing of the Dublin government and the Catholic Hierarchy, have indicated that they are happy to settle for less. But as the document published by Sinn Féin and reprinted in our centre pages demonstrates, what the British government is proposing is not enough by a long shot.

Nationalists and republicans in the Six Counties need a policing service that they can trust and identify with - a police force purged of human rights abusers would be a good start.

The British Secretary of State is already publicly committed to no further changes to the Implementation Plan, but Sinn Féin's line-by-line exhaustive assessment of the Police Act and Implementation Plan exposes the lie that the plan brings the British government proposals on policing into line with the Patten Recommendations.

Young nationalists will not join a force which will require them to work alongside human rights abusers, where they will be expected to use lethal force, including plastic bullets, against their neighbours, family and friends.

They will not sit in heavily fortified military bases or take orders from securocrats who have and still are colluding with the UDA and others in sectarian attacks on Catholic homes and areas and who have been undermining the Peace Process for months.

As party leaders pledged this week, Sinn Féin will not be nominating to the Policing Board.

Sinn Féin will campaign on the streets vigorously against these proposals.

Republicans will settle for nothing less than the new beginning to policing promised in the Good Friday Agreement.

 

Nationalist wins £100,000 compensation after RUC beating



Belfast nationalist Bernard Griffin is believed to have received a £100,000 out of court settlement after he was beaten by two RUC men in February 1998 and later falsely charged with possession of explosives.

In the early hours of 2 February 1998, Bernard, who was then just 19, was forced into the back of an RUC Land Rover as he stood waiting for a burger after leaving a local GAA club in North Belfast. It was the start of a frightening ordeal that has run on over three years.

Speaking to An Phoblacht, Griffin said: ``It was terrifying, they forced me into the back of the Land Rover and started to to beat me about the head with a wooden baton, calling me a Fenian bastard.

``Then they tried to pull up my shirt, a Celtic top, over my back and started to beat my back. All the time they were shouting sectarian abuse into my face.''

The RUC men then threatened to have Bernard shot by the LVF and threatened to drop their young captive off in the loyalist Shankill Road area.

``I thought I was never going to get out of that Land Rover alive'' said Griffin, ``I was glad to get to Old Park Barracks on the Antrim Road.''

False charges that Griffin had assaulted the RUC men were then brought against the North Belfast man, all of which were subsequently dropped. But this was not the end of the RUC campaign against Bernard Griffin.

The three RUC men and the British Army soldier in the Land Rover were all placed under investigation after the brutal assault. But as their cases came to the High Court in September 1999, RUC men from Greencastle RUC barracks raided Griffin's home.

It was claimed that a coffee jar bomb was discovered. To this day, Griffin's solicitor has yet to discover if there was any material evidence to support this charge.

Despite the RUC claims, the explosives charges were dropped, but not until Bernard had spent three months in a young offenders' centre and his brother had been held for several days.

While the RUC refuse to accept any responsibility for the 1998 attack, the £100,000 compensation paid to the two brothers and the jail sentences handed out to the two RUC men responsible for the beating point to a clear attitude within the ranks of the RUC.

The RUC disciplinary investigation was closed last November, but Bernard Griffin still wants to know what action is planned against the Greencastle RUC men who raided his home in 1999 and claimed to discover the coffee jar bomb, which has since mysteriously disappeared.

Bernard's brother, Kenneth, was again targeted in 1999 as he travelled to Britain to pursue his studies. As he passed through a Scottish port, Kenneth was singled out by Special Branch officers and held for four hours. He was offered £300 cash in return for acting as an informer. He refused point blank and was subsequently released without charge. Since then, he has been visited a number of times at his term time address.

In a possibly related incident, only last weekend Bernard Griffin was again targeted by RUC men as he left a GAA club in North Belfast.

Speaking to An Phoblacht, Griffin admitted that the RUC campaign against him and his brother had turned his life into a nightmare. He added that although he had read and knew of this level of violence and cover-up in the RUC, he had never expected to be caught up in the web of RUC deceit himself.

``It was a case of being a young man from a nationalists area, minding my own business, being in the wrong place at the wrong time,'' said Griffin.

In a message to any young nationalists thinking of joining the RUC, Bernard Griffin said he couldn't recommend it until there were decent reforms.

``It is always there, in the back of your mind, that the RUC will try and get revenge'' added Griffin.

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