March 5th, 2007
Ulster Unionist MP, Lady Hermon, launched a scathing attack on the latest round of policing reform in Northern Ireland during the recent debate on the Draft Policing (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 2007.
“I’m absolutely furious” she said “that the NIO chose to use an unamendable Order in Council to sneak through significant changes to policing and to the powers of the Police Ombudsman.”
This legislation both extends the 50:50 police recruitment procedure to Community Support Officers (CSOs) and also allows Nuala O’Loan’s Office to reopen cases where there is new and compelling evidence. “Since Secretary of State Peter Hain keeps reassuring the public that we have a new dispensation in Northern Ireland now that Sinn Fein has signed up to policing, what possible justification can he have for imposing the discriminatory 50:50 recruitment procedure at this stage for Community Support Officers?”
With some 400 Police CSOs to be recruited in the next few months, Lady Hermon stressed: “The old argument of the NIO that 50:50 recruitment had to restore an historic imbalance within the police service is wholly inapplicable in this instance. There is obviously no historic imbalance for Community Support Officers when we’ve never had them before. It’s utterly contemptible that the Government has legalised religious discrimination in further police recruitment.”
As for the extension of the Police Ombudsman’s powers, the North Down MP was “astounded that these now include power to reinvestigate a police officer who has already been acquitted.”
Although no DUP Members attended the Committee to vote against the legislation, Conservative MPs voted with the Ulster Unionist MP. The Liberal Democrats unexpectedly chose to endorse the extension of 50:50 recruitment by voting with the Government.
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