15 June 2000 Edition
Concerns grow on policing
BY SEAN BRADY
Republican and nationalist concerns at the British government's watering down of the Patten proposals has grown over the past week. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said the Policing Bill introduced to the British House of Commons by Peter Mandelson did not keep pace with the Patten report.
``On the contrary,'' said Adams, ``his Bill emasculates these recommendations by diluting every proposition which aims to introduce democratic accountability. We will only be able to have faith in the utterances of the British Secretary of State if he changes the legislation.''
The Policing Bill entered the committee stage at the House of Commons on Tuesday, 13 June.
As part of Sinn Féin's ongoing lobbying campaign against the dilution of Patten, Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast, Gerry Kelly, was in London for a series of meetings this week. He met British and Irish government officials on the matter and accused Peter Mandelson of allowing securocrats to ``tear the guts'' out of the Patten proposals.
At a Westminster press conference on Tuesday, 13 June, Kelly said: ``If we don't reverse the direction in which we are going, then the Good Friday Asgreement is in deep trouble.
``In terms of the confidence of nationalists and the undermining of the Agreement, this is a cumulative thing and has to be treated as an issue of urgency.''
He added: ``What unionism is doing, helped unfortunately by Peter Mandelson... is trying to recreate the RUC, and if they do that, they recreate a massive problem.''
Over 4,000 complaints against RUC
BY FERN LANE
A staggering 4,222 complaints were received against the RUC in the year 1998/99, according to the latest Annual Report of the Six-County Police Authority (PANI). Of these complaints, 1,778 alone were for assault and a further 646 complaints were received for what has been politely termed as ``incivility'' (that is, sectarian abuse) by police officers. Neglect of duty accounted for 508 complaints and ``oppressive conduct and harassment'' a further 498.
Astonishingly, the Police Authority views these figures as something of a success, pointing to a 24% drop from a total of 5,545 complaints received for the year 1997/98, citing the ``improved security situation'' and, oddly, ``better health and safety standards''. 1997/98 however, saw a particularly high level of complaints against the police, whereas the latest results conform more closely to a typical year. Further, in 1998/99 there were 30 proven cases of ``irregularity re evidence'' and of perjury, an increase on the previous year's total of 22. ``Corrupt practices'' were also up, with the RUC admitting to six cases in 1998/99 compared to four the previous year.
The level of compensation to victims of police misconduct has also risen steadily over the past three years, from £1,366,000 in 1996/97, to £1,681,000 in 1997/98 to £2,423,000 for 1998/99. Of this, the greatest amount - some £1,286,000 - was paid in 178 out-of-court settlements, highlighting the difficulty in bringing police officers to court to answer for their misdemeanours. A total £983,000 was awarded in 318 successful claims against the Chief Constable. The number of successful claims, as well as the amount paid out, was also up on previous years. A further £154,000 was paid in compensation for 203 claims for damage to property.
In respect of some of the most controversial issues surrounding the activities of the RUC over the past 18 months, the Authority criticises the UN Special Rapporteur, Dato Param Cumaraswamy, for his report into the harassment and intimidation of solicitors by the RUC. The Authority claims that Mr Cumaraswamy had ``uncovered little or no supporting evidence'' for his statement that solicitors were routinely harassed by the police and often ``identified with the cause of their clients''. The report goes on to congratulate the Chief Constable on his ``bold, imaginative and entirely novel actions'' in conducting the inquiry into the murder of Rosemary Nelson and also exonerates the RUC from any charges of misconduct in the case of Robert Hamill.
Grandmother lashes RUC over raid
Grandmother Margaret McCaughey has blasted the RUC after her Belfast home was ransacked in a fruitless raid last week.
McCaughey was in her Glasvey Close home on Wednesday evening, 7 June, when the RUC smashed their way in as she and her husband watched television. As they turned the McCaughey home upside down, the RUC warned the couple to ``keep your mouths shut'', and told them they were looking for guns.
The RUC spent up to an hour in the house and when they left empty-handed said someone would be out the following day to assess the damage to the house.
So far, no one has come out, although McCaughey has phoned the RUC on several occasions.
Sinn Féin accuses British over helicopter chase
A South Armagh woman was left in a state of shock after she was chased by a low-flying British army helicopter last Tuesday, 6 June.
The incident has sparked renewed calls for the British to ground its helicopter fleet, some of which were taken out of service when they were found to be flying with faulty parts.
In the latest incident, the woman was driving along the Glassdrummand Road near Crossmaglen when the aircraft flew over her car. At one point the woman, who is in her forties, thought the helicopter was going to land in front of her car.
``It was so close to the car that I was terrified. The noise was frightening and scared the life out of me'', she said.
The terrified woman took refuge in a friend's house.
Both Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy and Toni Carragher of the South Armagh Farmers and Residents Committee have accused the British pilots of recklessness and are demanding that the British end all helicopter activity in the South Armagh area.
Religious discrimination costs NIO £40,000
Two Catholic women from County Antrim have been awarded damages of £20,000 each after the NIO admitted discriminating against them on religious grounds.
The women, who took their cases against the NIO separately, were supported by the Equality Commission. It has now been disclosed that the NIO settled the case in April.
The terms of the settlement include a formal apology for the distress and injury caused to the women. And the NIO has promised to review its procedures in conjunction with the commission and to uphold a neutral working environment.
``I just wanted to be treated the same as everyone else'', said one of the woman anonymously. ``The £20,000 can never compensate me for the loss of confidence and the loss of dignity.''