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31 March 2005 Edition

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Anger as Policing Board votes for plastic bullets

Sinn Féin and groups involved in the campaign to get plastic bullets banned have reacted angrily to the decision by the Policing Board to give the green light to the PSNI to adopt the latest type of plastic bullet.

Board members, at a special meeting on Thursday 24 March, agreed to accept PSNI boss Hugh Orde's recommendation to deploy the new Attenuating Energy Projectile, (AEP).

In a unilateral decision at the end of last year, Orde ordered 50,000 AEP bullets, saying he didn't need the go ahead from the Policing Board to do so.

In an attempt to soften the blow and justify its endorsement of Orde's decision, the Policing Board says its ruling is subject to the PSNI boss demonstrating that he has consulted with the relevant bodies, including the Children's Commissioner, on the move.

However, in a statement Sinn Féin's spokesperson on policing Gerry Kelly accused the SDLP of "acquiescing to the continuing use of plastic bullets by the PSNI".

"The SDLP said that through its membership of the Policing Board they would ensure the removal of plastic bullets," said Kelly. "Yet on the Policing Board they have previously rubber stamped the purchase of thousands of these devices. On Thursday the Policing Board voted to introduce a new plastic bullet. The SDLP made noises but were ultimately powerless to prevent this and will without doubt go along with the decision. The SDLP have once again acquiesced to the continuing use of plastic bullets by the PSNI."

Although the SDLP representatives on the board voted against deploying the new weapon, the decision went against them, highlighting the limits of their influence on the unionist dominated board.

Ian Paisley junior highlighted the SDLP's position when he told the SDLP they were "left reeling in defeat".

Policing Board chair Desmond Rea said "we are satisfied that the new baton round presents less risk of causing serious or fatal harm than the round it replaces", despite the fact that the bullet will be fired from the guns that are presently in use and at the same velocity.


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