PSNI/RUC data: European court rules policy breaches human rights

The PSNI/RUC retains convicted offenders’ fingerprints, photos and DNA profiles. Image copyrightGETTY  IMAGES

The indefinite storage of a convicted drink driver’s DNA profile, photo and fingerprints by police is a breach of human rights, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled.

The ruling follows a decade-long legal battle by Fergus Gaughran against the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Mr Gaughran, from Newry, was convicted in 2008, but challenged the PSNI’s policy of keeping offenders’ ID data.

The ruling said a lack of safeguards in the data policy had been “decisive”.

Time limit
Mr Gaughran, who is now in his 40s, pleaded guilty to driving with excess alcohol after he was stopped by PSNI officers near Camlough, Country Armagh, in October 2008.

The County Down man was banned from driving for a year and his conviction was spent in 2013.

His long-running legal battle was based on his argument that the PSNI’s blanket policy of storing all convicts’ biometric data indefinitely was a breach of his right to privacy and took no account of the seriousness of his offence.

He began a test case in the UK courts in 2009, but it was dismissed by the High Court in Belfast in 2012 and again by the Supreme Court in 2015 .

Mr Gaughran then took his case to the European Court of Human Rights and, on Thursday, he won a unanimous judgement that his rights had been breached .

The seven judges agreed that the PSNI’s decision to retain Mr Gaughran’s personal data indefinitely was a “violation” of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

They said Mr Gaughran’s biometric data and photographs had been retained “without reference to the seriousness of his offence and without regard to any continuing need to retain that data indefinitely”.

The court noted that the UK is one of the few Council of Europe jurisdictions which permits the indefinite retention of DNA profiles.

The majority of member states which use the European Court of Human Rights put a time limit on storing offenders’ biometric data.

‘Obscure powers’
The judges ruled that “having chosen to allocate itself the most extensive power of indefinite retention”, the UK had a responsibility “to ensure that certain safeguards were present and effective”.

In previous human rights cases, people who were acquitted of an offence have successfully challenged the lawfulness of keeping their data indefinitely.

Mr Gaughran’s case is significant as he admitted his crime and was convicted.

During his arrest by the PSNI in October 2008, he provided a breath sample, which tested positive for excess alcohol.

The PSNI also took his fingerprints, his photograph and a DNA sample, in the form of a mouth swab.

The following month, Mr Gaughran pleaded guilty to driving with excess alcohol, was fined and served a one-year driving ban.

His decade long legal battle against the PSNI started in Belfast in 2009, when he asked for a judicial review of their policy of retaining identity data for an indefinite period.

Drink-driving convictions are spent within five years in the UK.

Facial mapping
Mr Gaughran’s conviction was spent in 2013 and his physical DNA sample was destroyed at his request in 2015.

However, the PSNI has kept hold his digital DNA profile. along with his photo and fingerprints.

Thursday’s ruling emphasised the importance of examining privacy rights “where the powers vested in the state were obscure and where the technology available was continually becoming more sophisticated”.

The judges gave the example of facial mapping technology which had “already moved on” since Mr Gaughran’s case was examined by the UK courts.

They also pointed out that the PSNI were only empowered to delete biometric data and photographs “in exceptional circumstances”.

The effectively meant that Mr Gaughran could not request a review of the retention of his data, as there was “no provision permitting deletion if conserving the data no longer appeared necessary in view of the nature of his offence, his age, or the time that had elapsed and his current personality”.

With many thanks to: BBC NewsNI and Eimear Flanagan for the original story 

Shame Féin the SDLP and the GAA are now endorsing Catholics to join the PSNI/RUC

Ciarán Cunningham
The full story of modern human rights abuses perpetrated by this man’s force has yet to be told. When it is (and it will be) will those who endorsed him today still smile silently and grant their approval?


6:16 PM · Feb 4, 2020Twitter
Absolutely disgraceful how any Catholic party including the GAA endorse any Roman Catholic joining the PSNI/RUC



50/50 Recruitment to the PSNI/RUC is not the answer!!

The PSNI/RUC are a corrupt police force and will never have the support from any law abiding Catholic citizens 


Absolutely disgraceful

Shame Féin now fully supporting a military police force in the occupied six counties of Ulster

Sinn Féin will attend future PSNI passing out ceremonies once recommendations to ‘demilitarise’ the process are implemented, the Irish News can reveal.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill stood shoulder to shoulder on Tuesday with DUP leader Arlene Foster and Chief Constable Simon Byrne at the launch of the PSNI’s latest recruitment drive.

It comes amid continued concerns over the PSNI’s ability to attract enough Catholic officers.

Ms O’Neill said her attendance at the recruitment launch “speaks volumes” about her party’s position.

It is understood that Sinn Féin have also agreed in principle to attend future PSNI passing out ceremonies once recommendations in the Police College Review, carried out by Alan Gibson of Police Scotland, are implemented.

The review found the current regime at the college had “elements more associated with a pseudo-militaristic style”.

Absolutely disgraceful

Sinn Féin expressed concerns that it was off putting to new recruits as “a relic of a police force of the past, more associated with the old RUC than a modern police service”.

The Chief Constable said yesterday: “We don’t underestimate the significant step forward Sinn Féin has taken in endorsing this campaign”.

Arlene Foster welcomed the recruitment drive saying; “We need to have a police service that reflects Northern Ireland’s society”.

With many thanks to the: Troops Out Movement for the original posting 

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Disgraceful scenes as Sinn Féin and the SDLP backs latest PSNI/RUC recruitment drive

Absolutely disgraceful as politicians and representatives of so-called  civic society including Shame Féin, SDLP and the GAA attended the launch event Image copyrightPACEMAKER


The chief constable said the attendance of deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill at the launch of the PSNI recruitment campaign got it off to “the best possible start”.

Simon Byrne launched the campaign on Tuesday.

It comes amid continued concerns over the PSNI’s ability to increase numbers of Catholic officers.

Ms O’Neill is deputy leader of Sinn Féin – its support is seen as important in encouraging more Catholic recruits.

She was one of a number of politicians at the event – including First Minister Arlene Foster – as well as representatives of churches and sporting bodies, such as the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).

Mr Byrne said: “We don’t underestimate the significant step forward Sinn Féin has taken in endorsing this campaign merely by being here and beginning a conversation about how we can work differently to improve policing right across the country.

“I am very pleased.”

Sinn Féin has historically been critical of the role of the police in Northern Ireland, both the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), which replaced it in 2001.

In 2007 the party gave its support to the PSNI, but its representatives have not attended passing out parades for new recruits.

‘Reflective of community’
In the lead-up to the new campaign, the first since October 2018, there has been debate about whether a return to 50-50 recruitment is required.

A a50-50 recruitment policy ran for the first 10 years of the PSNI until 2011.

This meant that 50% of all recruits had to be from a Catholic background, and 50% from a Protestant or other background.

The policy saw numbers of Catholic police officers rise from 8% to 32%, but things have stalled years after it ended.

Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Former chief constable Sir George Hamilton warned last year that numbers were “going to start to dip if nothing changes”.

Sinn Féin, the SDLP and senior Catholic clergymen favour its reintroduction, which would be a political decision, but unionists oppose it.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said her attendance at the recruitment campaign launch “speaks volumes”.

“We need a PSNI that is reflective in terms of the community in which it serves,” she said.

First Minister Arlene Foster welcomed the recruitment drive, describing it as “significant”.

“It is important because there’s been a lot of conversations about the fact we need to have a police service that reflects Northern Ireland’s society,” she said.

50-50 campaign
Applications are open for about three weeks, with the first part of the process handled by professional services firm Deloitte.

Later stages of selection, conducted by the PSNI, involve criminal background checks and physical tests.

The PSNI is also aiming to attract more women and people of ethnic backgrounds.

Michelle O’Neill attending the launch of the new recruitment drive felt like a big step.

One long-serving PSNI commander even wondered if it was the policing equivalent of the Queen visiting Dublin.

Sinn Féin endorsing Northern Ireland policing in 2007 was of course more notable.

So, arguably, was the late Martin McGuinness’s very strong condemnation of dissident murders of PSNI officers.

Mrs O’Neill stopped short of urging young Catholics to join in her comments to the media.

Cynics also point out there is an election in the Republic of Ireland.

But for a party that has not attended passing out parades for new recruits, this was a significant moment in the party’s relationship with the PSNI.

It is not the only challenge facing the PSNI, as it strives to better reflect the composition of Northern Ireland society.

Image copyrightPACEMAKER
Image caption
Former Chief Constable George Hamilton issued a warning over 50-50 recruitment

It has 6,900 officers and publishes data on their backgrounds.

Sixty-seven percent are “perceived” as being Protestant, 32% Catholic and 1% are from an ethnic minority.

Seven in every 10 officers are male.

The PSNI is also conscious of needing to improve interest from working class Protestants and members of the LGBT community.

With many thanks to: BBC NewsNI and Julian O’Neill Home Affairs Correspondent for the original story 

Related Topics
Police Service of Northern Ireland

Bitch Slapping and Backstabbing at the hierarchy of the RUC/PSNI



An Ulster Unionist assembly member has expressed concern at the process to appoint a new deputy chief constable.

Alan Chambers was to have been one of five politicians involved but has withdrawn from the interview panel.

In a letter to the Policing Board, Mr Chambers said the process needed to be “rigorously fair”.

He said the shortlist “did not leave me [him] with this impression”. The board said the process has been subjected to independent scrutiny at all stages.

Acting Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin was not shortlisted for interview Image copyrightPACEMAKER



One of those overlooked in the shortlist is the man who is currently acting as Deputy Chief Constable (DCC) Stephen Martin.

Within days of learning that he had not been selected for interview, he announced he would retire with effect from February.

He has been temporary DCC since August 2018 and was among the final candidates interviewed for the post of chief constable last year.

Alan Chambers withdrew because he was concerned about the selection process


In his letter, Mr Chambers did not go into the details behind his decision.

But he said his confidence in the recruitment process fell “far short of where it needs to be”.

It is understood four out of eight applicants missed out on being called for interview on the basis of their application forms.

Interviews for the £168,000-a-year post will be held this week, with the outcome due to be announced on 30 January.

Among those shortlisted are two assistant chief constables, Barbara Gray and Mark Hamilton, and two external candidates who formerly served in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

The task of filling senior positions falls to the Policing Board.

Its panel normally includes a member from each of the five main political parties.

In a statement, the board defended the selection process, adding it has been subjected to “independent scrutiny at all stages to provide additional probity and transparency”.

With many thanks to: BBC NewsNI and Julian O’Neill Home Affairs Correspondent for the original story 

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Black and Tans: ‘Half-drunk, whole-mad’ and one-fifth Irish

The terrorising Black and Tans had no monopoly on brutality in 1920

Black and Tans guarding Dublin Street after a shooting on Gloucester Road

One of the striking developments of 1919 in Ireland was the extent to which the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), policing Ireland since 1836, came under siege by the IRA and was increasingly ostracised by the communities it served.

Diarmuid O’Hegarty, the director of communications for the IRA, left no room for ambiguity when he composed a memorandum that year on what the targeting of the RIC should amount to: “the police should be treated as persons who having been adjudged guilty of treason to their country are regarded as unworthy to enjoy any of the privileges or comforts which arise from cordial relations with the public”.

In December 1919, the RIC inspector general reported that his policemen “were not strong enough to cope but for the assistance of the military”. The RIC men were ill equipped to deal with guerrilla warfare and were easy targets, as were their barracks which were being burnt out and evacuated in considerable numbers.

Royal Irish Constabulary under inspection during a by-election in Co Derry (Pic: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

But British counter-insurgency policy held that the RIC’s place was still in the front line. British prime minister David George’s government was adamant that counter-insurgency was “a policeman’s job”; part of a wider refusal to acknowledge there was a war going on in Ireland.

Notwithstanding, the pressure on the RIC had prompted talk in Dublin Castle in the second half of 1919 of augmenting the force with a new group of ex-soldiers. Authority was given by the government for such an initiative in November 1919 and the first soldiers were recruited 100 years ago this month, at a time when Lord French, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, admitted to Ian MacPherson, the Chief Secretary of Ireland: “matters here are really getting beyond the control of the police”.

A shortage of uniforms led to them wearing a mixture of police and military clothing… earning the moniker Black and Tans
The British advertisement seeking recruits asked “DO YOU WANT A JOB? YOU CAN JOIN THE RIC: THE FINEST CONSTABULARY FORCE IN THE WORLD”.

Terms of service included pay of 10 shillings a day, a month’s fully paid leave every year and “pensions on the highest scale payable to any police force in the UK… if you have the Physique – if you have a Good Character, And especially – if you are an Ex-Service Man YOU CAN JOIN THE RIC TODAY”.

A shortage of uniforms led to them wearing a mixture of police and military clothing; elements of the darker police uniform with the khaki, earning the moniker Black and Tans, which was also possibly a reference to a famous pack of foxhounds in Co Limerick.

The first Black and Tans arrived in March 1920 where they received cursory training at a depot in the Phoenix Park; subsequent recruits were trained at Gormanstown. There was a surge in recruitment later in 1920 as the British economy struggled, with more than 1,100 recruits joining the force in October 1920 alone. Eventually, over 8,000 of them were to serve in Ireland and most were sent to Cork, Tipperary, Galway, Clare, Limerick and Kerry

Who joined the Black and Tans and why did they become notorious? Canadian historian David Leeson, author of The Black and Tans (2011), which draws on British records, makes it clear they were recruited too quickly, without proper training or assessment of suitability and encouraged to treat republicans as they wished.

But it was not the case, as often contended by Irish republicans, that they were “largely drawn from the criminal classes”. Rather they were a collection of British and Irish ex-servicemen, very few of whom had criminal records.

They were mostly young, unmarried, Protestant working-class men; the majority were unskilled or semi-skilled workers (52 per cent) and skilled manual workers (36 per cent) made up most of the rest. The relatively high rates of pay were a draw at £3 10 shillings a week, with allowances.

Those Black and Tans who had been hardened by first World War service had no monopoly on brutality; their fellow recruits with pre-war service were also likely to act with impunity and indiscipline.

State to mark Cork’s pivotal role during War of Independence
Christmas Day swim at the Forty Foot, a longstanding Dublin tradition
‘Christmas doesn’t start in Cork until the Holly Bough arrives’

A suspected member of the Irish nationalist party Sinn Féin is searched at gunpoint by temporary constables of the British Black and Tans, during the Irish War of Independence, Ireland, November 1920. Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Leeson underlines the poor conditions in which they lived, billeted in police barracks. The IRA’s ability to choose and vary ambush sites left them physically and psychologically vulnerable and casualty rates were high; Leeson gives figures of 42 per cent wounded and 24 per cent killed.

It is estimated that almost 20 per cent of them were Irish-born. Historian William Lowe’s examination of the recruitment registers of 2,300 Black and Tans reveals that one third were recruited in London, over one third in Liverpool and Glasgow and 14 per cent in Dublin. This was an overwhelmingly English force – 78.6 per cent of Lowe’s sample – but 19 per cent of the sample were Irish born and their average age was 26½.

One recruit who was subsequently to resign recalled “we were mercenary soldiers fighting for our pay, not patriots willing and anxious to die for our country… Our job was to earn our pay by suppressing armed rebellion, not die in some foolish… forlorn hope.”

Another, Douglas Duff, who wrote a memoir, remembered that “it had not been hard to join” and that he was sent to Dublin the same day he was sworn in.

The Black and Tans had a deserved reputation for brutality; they were not trained as policemen, were regarded as “gun-happy” and were ill disciplined.

They terrified the inhabitants of Balbriggan in Dublin, for example, with a “sacking” of the town in September 1920 in revenge for the murder of an RIC district inspector and his brother. They burned and destroyed homes and businesses and beat two republicans to death. As was well recognised at the time, the “majority of those attacked were victims innocent of any documented complicity”.

In September 1920: Refugees leaving Balbriggan, County Dublin, the scene of violent reprisals by Black and Tans following the murder of Head Constable Burke of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

The War of Independence intensified as 1920 progressed; it became more brutal, and an increasingly ruthless IRA saw it as necessary to provoke publicity and international sympathy. Historian of the War of Independence, Michael Hopkinson, sees the Black and Tans as “effect rather than cause; however appalling their deeds, they were the product of Lloyd George’s policies” and he quotes from an article in May 1921 by Violet Asquith, a Liberal activist and daughter of the former prime minister Herbert: “We have to feel sorry for the Black and Tans… losing their souls in carrying out duties which no Englishman should have been asked to perform”.

What those “duties” meant in Ireland, notes Hopkinson, was that “the list of reprisals in the late summer and autumn of 1920 reads like a sombre catalogue of small towns throughout the length and breadth of the south and west”. Revenge attacks, authorised and unauthorised, did damage to Britain’s reputation. As the Observer put it in September 1920, they contributed to “the immense weakening of Britain’s moral position throughout the world.”

Playwright Lady Gregory wrote reports on the activities of the Black and Tans around Coole in Galway, where she resided, under the title “A week in Ireland” for The Nation in London, though they were not published under her name. She also referred to them in her journals and depicted them as a “terrible class… the standard reduced, little chaps of 5 foot 6 and with no character”.

Beatings, hair cuttings and worse… which included women in night attire being assaulted by drunken Black and Tans
In Gort in December 1920, as observed by historian Roy Foster, “a new level was plumbed” when two local boys with no IRA connections were murdered by the Black and Tans for “impudence”. Their bodies were thrown into a ditch “after being dragged behind one of the dreaded lorries until they were unrecognisably mangled”. This was just one example of what poet WB Yeats referred to in his poem Reprisals as “Half-drunk or whole-mad soldiery”.

Although both the Black and Tans and The Auxiliaries became associated with terror, reprisals and extra-judicial killings, including on Bloody Sunday in Croke Park in November 1920, and frequently worked in collaboration, it is important to distinguish between them, as they were separate forces. Raised from among demobilised officers of the British army, the Auxiliaries were recruited from July 1920 in response to the escalation of the conflict.

While both groups were there to reinforce the RIC, the Auxiliaries was a much smaller group, intended to be an elite cadre, or strike force, and was only nominally under RIC command. The Auxiliaries were not “guns for hire” and never numbered more than 2,263. They were also paid much better – £7 a week – than the Black and Tans

It was the impact on civilians that hardened opinion against them and secured the Black and Tans’ legacy. WB Yeats’s sister Lily wrote to her father John in December 1920 that after witnessing months of Black and Tan atrocities and having seen a lorryload of them pass her house with “Reprisals Galore” scrawled on the side, her political stance changed: “As you know I was no Sinn Féiner a year ago, just a mild nationalist – but now…”

As documented by historian Louise Ryan, in the context of a guerrilla war in rural Ireland in isolated areas, women at home were easy targets for the Black and Tans. A report of the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland gave evidence in 1920 of the frequency with which “the sanctity of the family home is violated”.

As documented by historian Louise Ryan, in the context of a guerrilla war in rural Ireland in isolated areas, women at home were easy targets for the Black and Tans

Beatings, hair cuttings and worse were described in contemporary newspapers under the catchall label “Outrages”, which included women in night attire being assaulted by drunken Black and Tans. Sexual assaults were occasionally recorded by Sinn Féin’s The Irish Bulletin and as Ryan notes: “Images of the drunken Tan emphasised the worst extremes of British masculinity; by contrast, sobriety, courage and chivalry towards women were the self-ascribed characteristics of Irish republican masculinity”.

Harassment by the Black and Tans took other forms. John Duffy, an RIC member, recalled that “it was a common practice for them, when they went out the country in their lorries, to shoot down fowl and other poultry, the property of poor people, and bring them back to the mess where some of them were cooked for their own use and those that were not required were dispatched to their families in England’.

Many in the RIC strongly resented the coming of the Black and Tans, whom they regarded as morally and professionally reprehensible – “they’d have shot their mother”, according to one witness – and reactions to them can be traced through the Bureau of Military History statements taken in the 1940s and 1950s.

Jeremiah Mee, instigator of a mutiny within the Listowel RIC against the taking over of their barracks by the British military, explained the sentiments behind the mutiny: “When we joined the police force, we joined with characters second to none and we refused to co-operate or work in any capacity with the British military, men of low moral character who frequented bad houses, kept the company of prostitutes and generally were unsuitable and undesirable characters”.

John Flannery, one of the participants in the Mutiny of the Connaught Rangers in India in 1920, when a company of the Rangers stationed at Jullundur on the plains of the Punjab refused to perform their military duties as a protest against British military activity in Ireland, insisted that the mutineers’ action was prompted by the treatment of their mothers and sisters by the Black and Tans.

The mutineers’ spokesman “put it to the general if it was a fitting reward for the sacrifices that thousands of Irishmen had made on many fronts throughout the Great War and to these men on parade who came through this great ordeal, to return home and learn that our own fellow countrymen and women were being shot down by the orders of the British government”.

Such was the cementing of the notorious reputation of the force that the war of independence was often referred to as “the Tan war”. But regular RIC members also became capable of brutality and reprisals, as did the IRA, such was the nature of the war.

Well known Tipperary IRA volunteer Dan Breen was not shy of exaggeration in his memoir, but it is difficult to dispute the accuracy of his assertion that “the words Black and Tans have become a symbol of terrorism”.

They were far from the only symbol of terror in Ireland in 1920, but their impact on civilians in particular led to them occupying an elevated position in the hierarchy of villains of that period of Irish history. Theirs was a dismal record, reflecting very poorly on their political creators.

With many thanks to: The Irish Times and Diarmaid Ferriter for the original story 

Diarmaid Ferriter is professor of Modern Irish History at UCD and an Irish Times columnist

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