Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240
WEDNESDAY 10 JANUARY 2001
OBE, AND INSPECTOR
240. Provided they are peaceable?
(Mr McQuillan) Provided they do it peaceably, and
in that we have to try and balance all sorts of conflicting priorities
and interests and views.
241. Coming to the issue of a breach of the
peace, it seems to be that if a parade is legitimate and peaceful
but someone is going to threaten a breach of the peace, then the
parade is affected. Should action not be taken against those who
are going to make the breach of the peace rather than a law-abiding
(Mr McQuillan) There are two issues in relation to
that. The first one is the nature of the determination by the
Commission. The legal framework we work within is that we give
the Commission advice on what we believe will happen in various
scenarios on a controversial parade where there was, say, a risk
of disorder. It is then for the Commission to balance those and
make its determination and it is up to us to enforce that determination.
In enforcing the determination we would have to have regard to
all the other factors because there are various ways in which
we can police a parade. If a parade is going to breach the Parades
Commission's determination we can stop the parade. We could allow
the parade to go and police it through an area, or we could take
other action in terms of prosecuting the individuals concerned
or arresting the individuals concerned. There are all sorts of
options for us. What we have to do is consider the operational
situation at the time and make our decisions on that basis. We
would have regard to the rights of everybody in that. The difficulty
we have is that there are no easy answers here. If people are
determined to come into conflict with each other it is a matter
of balancing the harm that would occur in each situation. The
major factor in our decision making process has to be what is
the determination of the Commission.
242. How many times have the Parades Commission
re-routed or stopped a parade when the police advice was that
that parade could be policed without difficulty?
(Mr McQuillan) I do not have figures on that, sir.
I do not think that the Commission would have re-routed a paradeI
am trying to give you a straight answer on this. I am not aware
of circumstances where the Commission would normally re-route
a parade where the police would give advice that it could pass
off completely peacefully. However, we do not keep figures for
our advice on parades versus the ultimate outcome, so I do not
have any statistical figures on that. In the parades in which
determinations are made in my experience there is always some
sort of opposition to the parade in some way or the Parades Commission
do not usually make a determination, so the Parades Commission
is part of the process I have identified, that there is some factor
of opposition there and that is the basis on which they are making
a decision. It is not that they are totally opposed to it.
243. I will put it another way. Are you aware
of situations where a parade might go ahead with fewer police,
when the determination of the Commission was that it took more
(Mr McQuillan) Absolutely. There are some parades
where we have advised the Commission that if this parade were
allowed to go ahead we anticipate that we can police this with
so many officers. In some cases policing that in line with the
determination takes two or three times as many police officers.
We accept that that is the decision of the Parades Commission
and we do everything we can to make sure that the resources are
there to police the determination.
244. But would you consider a determination
by the Parades Commission in that circumstance as a wise decision?
(Mr McQuillan) I do not think it is a position for
me to decide whether their decision was wise or not. My job as
a police officer is to enforce the law. The law is that if they
determine I am duty bound to try and do that. As I have said,
we have professional discussions on these matters, we give professional
advice to them. In the vast majority of cases they accept it.
In some cases they do not. I will come back to my point that overall
collectively we have got it right in most cases. We do not agree
with them in all their decisions.
245. What are the procedures by which RUC and
commissioners submit to the Parades Commission as part of its
information gathering and consultation process? How have these
been influenced by the coming into effect of the Human Rights
(Mr McQuillan) If I can go through the sequence briefly
from the original receipt of a notice of an intention to parade,
and we can if it is necessary provide documentation of this to
the Committee afterwards in terms of the forms, organisers of
a parade are required to submit a notice to the police and that
includes various details about the parade. They have to submit
that to a police sergeant or above at the nearest station. We
immediately communicate it to the Commission along with information
from the local police commander on the nature of the parade, whether
it is a traditional parade, traditional route, and whether or
not we consider it to be contentious. That acts as the first trigger
of notice that there is going to be a parade. The Parade Commission
AOs will then become involved and will begin to assess the parade.
There may be contact between our local officers and the AOs. If
the parade is deemed contentious we begin to do an assessment.
We do that assessment on what we call a form 11/9 and that includes
factors like the recent history of parades in this area, the extent
to which past parades have complied with the Commission's Code
of Conduct, any evidence of previous disorder at such parades.
We do what is called a community impact assessment, in other words,
what will the impact of this parade be on relationships within
the community from a police perspective. We then do a specific
human rights impact analysis and we do that against Article 2:
the right to life, Article 5: the right to liberty, Article 8:
the right to private family life, Article 9: the right to freedom
of thought and religion, Article 10: the right to freedom of expression,
Article 11: the right to free assembly and association, and Article
14: the prohibition on discrimination. We also give an assessment
from the local commander on contentious parades. That goes to
the Commission. If the Commission want further information they
will contact us. They would normally do that through Inspector
McGarry's office or they may go direct on a few occasions to the
local division. On the really difficult decisions we would frequently
be asked to come and talk to the Commission and answer any questions
they may have and those are formal sessions which are recorded.
They then prepare a draft determination for the parade. They would
normally let us have sight of that a short time before it is published.
Then they issue their determination, sir. That is the broad thrust
of the process. In terms of how the human rights impact has affected
that, up until June last year we operated a slightly different
system. Most of the components were the same except for the human
rights issues. From June last year we implemented what we believe
is a fully human rights compliant assessment process and we have
a complete audit trail of the decisions and why we took them for
each of the contentious parades.
246. You are responsible of course to the Human
Rights Act as well?
(Mr McQuillan) Yes, sir.
247. Is there a possibility of conflict between
your views of what human right is and what the Commission's view
is? Could there be a conflict of interest?
(Mr McQuillan) These are difficult balancing judgements
and there is always the possibility that there could be a difference
of opinion. We have had discussions, I have personally had discussions,
with the Commission on parades in terms of how we balance the
issues in given cases. I have to say that there is provision within
the Act that if a situation were arrived at where the Chief Constable
felt that the decision of the Commission was so inappropriate
he has the power to appeal to the Secretary of State. We have
never exercised that power.
248. Finally, at present the Parades Commission
treats each parade as a separate entity, although there is some
evidence from their determinations that they may take account
of the cumulative impact of a number of parades on a particular
area. What effect would this have on its ability to resolve some
of the more difficult cases? Is there not a case for them sometimes
to allow parades that are in one location all the time, particularly
where one or other side seeks to let them, as with the Apprentice
Boys' parades in Belfast and Londonderry?
(Mr McQuillan) In terms of the general issue the Act
itself is structured in such a way that each parade is considered
parade by parade. Therefore that is a legal issue. In terms of
whether it would be better to consider the totality, as I started
my evidence today by saying, that these parades and the parades
problems are symptomatic of general and wider problems with community
relations, the answer must be yes, that if we could resolve those
problems of community relations, if we could resolve those conflicts,
then some of the parades issues would dissipate or become easier
to deal with.
249. What is the character and status of the
materials supplied by the RUC to the Parades Commission and is
it evidence to the Commission or is it advice? How would you explain
the possible subtle distinction between the two?
(Mr McQuillan) We will give the Commission a professional
assessment on each of the components I have outlined. For example,
I take the right to life. On a controversial parade we would look
perhaps at the different options for dealing with that event and
with the possible consequences of each in terms of public disorder
and the dangers and risks associated with each of those. That
is based upon our professional judgement looking at the intelligence
we have, our knowledge of past events in this area, and the strength
of the parade itself, the nature of the parade and any opposition.
That would be the broad nature of the evidence. On the question
of is it evidence or advice, we have been quite lax, both the
police and the Parades Commission, in the past in terms of whether
we call this evidence or whether we call it advice. I think the
question is, is this a judicial process or not? We have taken
the view that we are providing confidential information to the
Parades Commission which is based upon our assessments. I think
that is the view that the Commission have accepted in the past.
There is an issue, and I think Mr Holland referred to this in
his evidence to this Committee, of whether or not this is a full
quasi-judicial process and there would be major implications if
that were held to be the case.
250. Would any problems arise for the RUC if
its advice or evidence to the Commission were to be regarded as
disclosable to the parties, if it was likely to have a material
effect on the Commission's decision?
(Mr McQuillan) In terms of our advice being disclosable,
probably not. If we then had to expose the basis of that advice,
quite clearly on lots of occasions yes, because some of that advice
is derived from intelligence and that would be intelligence about,
for example, the intent of paramilitary organisations to organise
or exploit that particular event. Not in every circumstance would
that cause a problem but in some circumstances that could cause
us a problem.
251. I wonder if you would bear with me a little
bit while I follow up Mr Burgon's question. In recent evidence
from the Apprentice Boys there was a lot of confusion about whether
or not you are presenting evidence or advice because it was seen
as if the determination was made upon evidence provided from the
RUC, and yet in a later letter the second term was used and it
had been watered down to "advice". Do you accept that
this could lead to criticism from those that seek to parade if
they cannot determine whether or not you are putting forward an
opinion based on advice or whether or not you are putting forward
hard evidence as to why a parade should not proceed?
(Mr McQuillan) We operate within the procedural rules
of the Commission. As I say, in the past we have both been quite
lax in terms of the way we have phrased things. There is a legal
issue about what the nature of the Parades Commission pleadings
are. Quite frankly I do not feel that I am competent to judge
that. It may be a matter that is ultimately determined in the
courts at some stage. In terms of the nature of the material that
we are providing to the Commission, in the vast majority of cases
that will be in the nature of the professional opinion of police
officers on issues that are directly relevant to the decision
and which the Commission will consider in conjunction with the
opinion of others and material from the AOs and submissions from
marchers and protest groups. It would not be material that I would
normally regard as evidential. Some of it would be fact, for example,
that a parade broke the conditions last time, but most of it would
not be of that nature. Most of it would be of a judgemental nature.
252. Ultimately, should the RUC disagree with
the Commission's determinations, you do have the right of appeal
to the Secretary of State.
(Mr McQuillan) Yes, sir.
253. In your memorandum it was quoted that it
is significant that today the Royal Ulster Constabulary has not
deemed it necessary to invoke the operation of these provisions.
(Mr McQuillan) Yes.
254. Could you explain for our benefit why you
think that is significant?
(Mr McQuillan) I think that is significant because
it demonstrates a broad confidence by us in the system. I am quite
happy to say that our judgements are not always the same judgements
as the Parades Commission's. They do not always follow our advice
or our evidence. That sometimes, as has been alluded to in other
questions, has significant resource consequences for us. It has
a significant impact on the way we are required to deal with certain
parades, but I think that overall it is an indication that the
system generally can work and is also an indication that we are
doing everything we can to help make the system work.
255. I did notice earlier on you did sayand
quite rightly sothat the Commission do not always accept
(Mr McQuillan) No, sir, they do not.
256. Could you see that you could be open to
criticism from some who would suggest that the Commission may
be giving undue weight to the RUC's input when making its decisions?
(Mr McQuillan) Yes. All I can say is that when I go
down to give advice to the Commission I am quizzed quite heavily,
I am asked to justify, my officers are asked to justify. It is
clear to us that that has been, because of the nature of the questioning,
weighed against material that has been provided by others or submissions
from others. It is not a cosy relationship. I would not describe
it as that in any way. It is a professional relationship and we
give professional advice.
257. Going back to comments you made earlier
about those that wish to present to you the fact that they are
to parade or protest and you said quite clearly that they would
need to present to an officer above the rank of sergeant their
intention to parade or protest, what practical steps do you take
to make it as easy as possible for people to give notice of public
processions and/or protests?
(Mr McQuillan) The forms are widely available. They
can be handed in at any police station. If there was not a sergeant
on duty when they came to the police station we would make arrangements
for a sergeant to see them and pick up the forms. We are completely
open in this. We have no interest in restricting this in any way.
If people contact us for advice we would refer them to the Parades
Commission, and there are the Parades Commission booklets which
we make available through our stations, and we do everything we
can to assist people to comply. I have to say that a lot of people
organising parades are quite ignorant of and do not understand
the requirements, particularly with a lot of voluntary organisations.
We do everything that we can to help them and to educate them
in the process.
258. Do you foresee that there could be a problem
particularly with some small rural stations in an officer or sergeant
not being there? What could you do in those circumstances to make
sure that it was as easy as possible?
(Mr McQuillan) There is a statutory requirement that
it has to be handed to a sergeant. I would expect that in most
of those areas if someone walked into a police station and wanted
to hand in a parade notice and there was no sergeant, they would
not just be told to go away. Either a sergeant would be called
or, if that was impossible, we would probably make arrangements
to see them. It is in our interests to collect them as quickly
as possible and we have a good relationship with the community
and the vast majority of groups in Northern Ireland and we would
want to get those parade notices in and to help people in that
no matter who they are and what the notices are.
259. What steps does the RUC take as a matter
of routine to analyse and monitor parades in respect of which
it has made an input to the Parades Commission to see what the
final outcome is?
(Mr McQuillan) We keep a certain amount of statistical
information, sir, which has been provided today. There are two
levels of this. At the level of the individual parade we keep
careful records of what has happened with each parade and that
then feeds the next stage of the process for the next parade in
that area by that group. That is one level. At another level Northern
Ireland wide each year we go through the processes that have gone
on with our entire tactical deployments, the way parades have
gone on, hour systems have worked, and we analyse those and try
to look at how we can do things better this year and next year.
Inspector McGarry in that context has just completed an audit
of how our relationship with the Parades Commission is working,
how the new forms are working, and we have looked at that across
the entire spectrum of that relationship. We have looked at that
against what is known at the European Foundation Quality Model
and we have come up with a number of issues out of that in terms
of the quality of training we give people, the degree of understanding
there is within the organisation of the requirements and so on.
We organise it on all those different levels.