The obvious solution is to abolish the policing board and had its role over to Stormont‘s 11-member justice committee, which has a rotating chair and a membership reflective of each party’s assembly strength.
AT THE end of last week’s police, political and paramilitary get-togeather in Wales everyone reaffirmed their ccommitment to the PSNI, the Police Ombudsman and the Policing Board. The inclusion of the policing board on this list stood out like a vestigial tail on an X-ray of the peace process. “Ah yes, “you might have thought to yourself. “I remember when we evolved that to stop ourselves falling over.” But what on earth is it for now?
The question is worth asking because the policing board cost £7.2 million last year, down a fair whack on the £8m figure for previous years but still a significant sum by any measure and staggering sum for the quango, the main function of which is to hold eight meetings a year. The policing board does a bit more than hold those eight eight semi-public iinterviews with senior PSNI officers. Its 19 board members also meet in private committees to discuss topics such as finance and human rights (what a joke). The policing board has has a long list of statutory responsibilities ranging from public consultation to hiring and firing the chief constable. Its ultimate function is “to secure an effective and accountable local policing service”.
However, prior to the policing board’s creation in 2001, almost exactly the same functions were preformed by a very similar panel called the Police Authority. Chances are you do not remember the Police Authority because nobody gave two hoots about these oversight arrangements until the question arose of Sinn Fein joining it. That is why the Police Authority became the policing board and the policing board was allowed to spend £8m a year. It seems incredible to recall the angst we went through while Sinn Fein danced around the chairs it now sits in so comfortably. The principal innovation of the policing board was to replace a Police Authority that had been nominated entirely by the secetary of state plus 10 MLAs nominated by their parties according to assembly strength.
The two seats reserved for Sinn Fein from the outset became totemic of the entire ‘recognition of policing’ debate, which started with SDLP policing board members being attacked by the IRA. The politics of those two empty chairs grew to seem important, as by extension did the policing board itself. Yet once Sinn Fein recognised policing in 2007 the basis of this importance evaporated and a new logic applied. The devolution of policing and justice was inevitable, under an executive minister overseen by an all-party assembly committee. So what was the point of the policing board? Its direct-rule origins were evolutionary dead-end. Now that we are in this situation the logic has become almost circular. The policing board falls under the remit of Alliance policing and justice minister David Ford, who has assumed the secretary of state’s former role of appointing the nine independent board members.
His last appointee was Alliance party member Brice Dickson. Even if these people are independent, why have them? The obvious solution is to abolish the policing board and hand its role over to Stormont’s 11-member justice committee, which has a rotating chair and a membership reflective of each party’s assembly strength. Like the policing board, the justice committee already conducts research, reports, consulatations and inquires. It can summon senior police officers to hearings, hold meetings open to the publc and set up sub-committees to examine specific policing issues. With a few resources there is no reason why it cannot do everthing the policing board does more efficienty and with more authority. Authority is no small matter. The policing board is the lawful body for holding the PSNI to account. It is supposed to set police priorities, policing performance targets and annual and three-year policing strategies yet evidence that it exercises this kind of direction over senior officers is scant. A common criticism of the Police Authority was that the RUC simply ignored it and that problem may be recurring under the pressure of the past year’s public order problems. With its fancy harbour-side offices and half-appointed panel of of worthies the policing board looks like the sort of peace process quango serious people stopped talking to seriously some time ago. Replacing it with regular grillings at Stormont would go a long way to re-asserting the authority of politics and polcing. The money is no small matter either. Closing the policing board would save Mr Ford (the so-called justice minister) twice as much as all his civil legal aid reforms combined.
With many thanks to : Newton Emerson, Irish News
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
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A WOMEN has come out of retirement to become the new director – general of the Northern Ireland Prison Service. Sue McAllister ( 51 ), from South Yorkshire, will take up her £100,000-a-year job on July 3rd.
New director general of the Northern Ireland Prison service Sue McAllister with Justice Minister David Ford
She has been chosen to press ahead with major changes to a regime that costs £140 million a year to run. ” I do not underestimate the scale of the reform programme that will be delivered over the next few years, one of the most challenging undertaken by the public sector anywhere in the United Kingdom,” she said yesterday. ” I am confident that I can lead the prison service through this change programme and with the support of colleagues, the department and the minister, create a service with offender rehabilitation at its core which plays it’s part in building safer communities across Northern Ireland.”
Mrs McAllister has 25 years experience in the prison service, including working as a governor at HMP Gartree and Onley young offenders centre. Her previous job was as head of the Public-Sector Bids Unit in the Ministry of Justice before she took early retirement in August last year. She will arrive in Belfast following an agreement between the Prison Officers Association on new working arrangements – a significant element of the reform programme which also involves plans to reduce staffing levels and cut the prison budget by £16m over the next four years. The first of 200 newly recruited custody officers are expected to begin duties later this year.
Mrs McAllister has been in the north before as part of a team that reviewed arrangements at MAGHABERRY following the suicide of a life sentence prisoner who was found hanged at his fourth attempt to take his life. She is married with two grown-up childeren and replaces Colin McConnell who left after 16 months to become head of the Scottish Prison Service. Justice minister David Ford said she was joining the service at a crucial stage. ” A number of key milestones have been reached, including the successful launch of the exit scheme with over 150 staff leaving the service, a recruitment competition under way for new custody officers and an aggreement with the POA on new working practices,” Mr Ford said. ” This is only the start of the reform programme and it is important to maintain the momentum for change that has been established. ” Sue brings a wealth of experience to this demanding post and I know that she is committed to driving forward the change agenda.”
- First woman prison service boss (bbc.co.uk)
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- Free Marian Price ” Don’t Let Her Root in Prison ! (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Prison service boss to step down (bbc.co.uk)
- Prison service boss to go in May (bbc.co.uk)
- Scottish News: Colin McConnell appointed as chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service (dailyrecord.co.uk)
On the 1st July 2011 Cógus POWs in Maghaberry embarked upon a “Dirty-protest”. We did so after months of watching the Prison service and David Ford eroding the hard fought for 12th August Agreement. Both had been warned for months that their actions or lack off would force the prisoners hand and we urged the Prison service to work within the framework of the 12th August agreement.
It was a protest we didn’t embark upon lightly as we knew that our actions would bear heavily on our families, it would deflect republicans from the overall struggle outside and would have a physical and emotional impact on ourselves. However to do nothing would have put republican prisoners conditions in a deplorable situation, so with the sacrifices of republican prisoners before us as a beacon, we began a new stage in prison struggle.
The Crux of our angst is the deliberate misrepresentation of the 12th August agreement by the NIPS and the failure of the DOJ and its head David Ford to face down the naysayers, who are reluctant to penal reform and change simply because republican prisoners are the lightning rods of that proposed change. Republican POWs believed that strip-searching and controlled movement was fully addressed in the August 2011 agreement. Sadly rather than embracing the opportunities of the agreement and taking the opportunity to show pragmatism, the NIPS reverted back to their usual dogmatic and rigid policies.
When it was clear that POWs and the DOJ/NIPS were at loggerheads over strip-searching and controlled movement, as it had been pointed out to them on numerous occasions during the circular conversations that passed as the new “forum”. The POWs showed vision and a willingness to promote the agreement and to iron out issues of contention. On the issue of strip-searching pows offered to strip down to their underwear and shake their own under garments, this was the standard and accepted approach to strip-searching in Long Kesh right up to the point of closure in 2000. This proposal was rejected by the prison service that embarked upon a regime of brutal and sexually degrading strip searches of passive republican prisoners.
We began to passively refuse to co-operate with strip-searches while entering and exiting Maghaberry, the response from the prison service was to send a full riot unit into the cells holding us waiting to attend court or hospital. We were charged and pinned to the wall with a shield, then dragged to the floor by screws in full riot gear at all times they applied their knuckles behind our ears as pressure points and twisted our arms and hands into painful locks. They ripped our clothes and underpants from our bodies and then after searching them, through them back at us and exited the cell laughing. This is what David Ford; the so called champion of human rights turns a blind eye to in “his prison”.
Ten months into the “dirty-protest” has seen our health suffer badly as our protest continues. Our cells have lost all natural light as the walls and ceilings are covered in excrement, we are on 23 hour lockup and have to eat and sleep in our own waste. We suffer infections and some men have needed hospital treatment. Our cells are hosed down every six weeks and we are returned to our cells, the process for us starts over again, our long hair and beards are a public testament to Maghaberry visitors that all isn’t well in the “North’s most modern and secure prison”
Ten months into our protests and our refusal to co-operate with strip-searches seen David Ford finally accept what we and others had been saying all along. That technology existed that made strip-searching for the most part redundant in prisons. He accepted a recommendation from Dame Anne Owers to explore alternatives to “full body searching”. Over one and a half million pounds has been spent by the NIPS managing the republican prisoners protest, months of hardship and relationships destroyed in the short to medium term that could have been avoided with common sense and a desire to have a harmonised regime in Roe House.
On the 3rd May 2012 David Ford announced that he was introducing a pilot scheme of two x-ray style machines in Hydebank wood prison and in Magilligan prison. He didn’t say how long the pilot scheme would last or how quickly if accepted it could be installed in Maghaberry. When pushed on this issue Ford has been deliberately vague and ambiguous. There is no doubting that we as protesting POWs have won the argument on the futility of strip-searching in modern times. However without a clear timeline or tight framework to work from our efforts could be placed on the notorious backburner that exists within Maghaberry and our forced strip-searching and controlled movement would be left back in the hands of the NIPS, that is a position we will never accept.
In an effort to defuse tensions and to allow space to watch developments in the pilot scheme, Cógus pows through the independent facilitators informed the NIPS on the 7th May 2012, that if they suspended all strip-searches across Maghberry (as they had done for eight weeks after the 12th august agreement to allow time to install the boss-chair) That Cógus pows would suspend their protest. This offer was refused. On Thursday 10th May 2012 Cógus pows again offered to suspend the protest if the prison service would agree to pows coming down to their under-pants and shaking them ourselves, the prison service response was to offer not to have the search team forcibly strip us and that two prison officers in standard uniform would remove our clothing and that we would pull our underpants elastic out and allow a screw to look down.
We have been attacked and degraded by thugs in uniforms for almost one year now, we would not allow ourselves to be criminalised nor would we allow ourselves to be humiliated with their “latest offer” it was flatly rejected. No one can say that republican prisoners haven’t shown pragmatism or vision, we have no desire to be on protest for protest sake, however as we have shown in this communication, NIPS intransigence is fully to blame for the situation that prevails in Maghaberry today.
On Thursday 23th May 2012 Cógus pows have increased our protest, we slopped out onto the landings as the screws opened up for the morning unlock, the response has been to bring in extra cleaning materials and the screws have spread cat litter all over the landings, we intend in the coming weeks to enhance our protest further, if the NIPS believe that dialogue was or is a sign of weakness our actions now will show them that rather than burning out the protest, our intentions is to increase it. The Door isn’t shut however and if the prison service or Ford is serious about progress they need to act! Not talk! To show their sincerity in moving out of prison conflict.
Can we finish by thanking our families and supporters for your unswerving support, without it our struggle would be impossible…signed Cógus POW rep
POSTED ON BEHALF OF : Rnu Belfast
- Life as a protesting republican prisoner in Maghaberry (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- [R . S . F news] Provo MLAs act as jailers (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Report on MagHaberry for UNHRW (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
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- Prison union calls for strip searches rethink (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
“On humanitarian terms alone she should be moved to an outside hospital, never mind the fact that her continued imprisonment damages public confidence in the justice system.”
Mr McCartney said he had pressed the justice minister for the hospital transfer.
Meanwhile, Pat Ramsey met with the Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, to talk about Ms Price’s case. “In what was, at times, a heated exchange, we sought to question the Secretary of State about the rationale for the continued detention of Marian Price,” he said.
WITH MANY THANKS TO : BELFAST TELEGRAPH.
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Farmers fearful of their machinery being stolen may soon be offered guidance on how forceful they can be with intruders.
The justice minister said he was not going to change the law to give all householders in Northern Ireland more latitude to use force, but he told the Assembly that he would consider developing guidelines on exactly what was permitted.
David Ford was responding to an Assembly debate on agricultural crime and a call for perpetrators to be handed heavy sentences.
Under the current legislation, a person may use reasonable force to prevent a crime or to assist in the lawful arrest of offenders. This includes protecting property or acting in self-defence.
Mr Ford insisted that sentencing was a matter for the judiciary.
However, the Alliance minister said that he wanted “to explore if producing guidance on the use of reasonable force, based on the current legislation, would be beneficial to the rural community”.
Mr Ford said he would write to the justice committee to seek its views on the proposal.
- David Ford to seek intruder force guide (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
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- David Ford ‘actively’ pursuing alternatives to prison strip-searching (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
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Price, from Stockman’s Ave, Belfast, who served time for her part in the IRA bombing of the Old Bailey in London in 1973, was re-arrested by police last May following an Easter Commemoration rally by dissident republicans at Derry’s city cemetery where she held paper to enable a masked man to read a speech.
She was later accused of encouraging support for an illegal organisation and granted bail. But Secretary of State Owen Patterson moved immediately to revoke her release licence.
Price has since been charged in connection with the murders of two soldiers in March 2009 – a charge which she also denies.
A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Prison Service said Price’s health was the responsibility of the Southern Eastern Trust. He added: “Her medical needs are being met in full by the SET who have responsibility for the healthcare of all prisoners.”
WITH MANY THANKS TO : BELFAST TELEGRAPH.