Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
WEDNESDAY 13 DECEMBER 2000
120. It is reasonable to assume though that
if people are reporting for punishment then they could just as
likely report to a trial, should one be set up?
(Mr McQuillan) One could assume that. I am not aware,
and I would be aware from intelligence, of that happening on any
sort of significant scale. Again, a proportion of people report;
a proportion of people, when they find out, just run away; and
a proportion of people do not get the opportunity to run away
because people suddenly raid their house, with weapons, and either
beat them up or shoot them.
121. Good afternoon, Mr McQuillan. Just to go
back to Mr McKenna. Would you agree with me that when this rally
took place in the Ulster Hall, where Mr Donaldson was welcomed,
that, in fact, at that time, there was no public knowledge that
there would be any accusations, or indeed anything, against Mr
(Mr McQuillan) I am not aware of any public knowledge
of that, at that stage.
122. Would you not think that is a very sad
situation and is a reflection of the lack of security in Northern
Ireland, when the security forces cannot protect people in their
(Mr McQuillan) I am a police officer. I joined this
job to protect people. I am conscious that these are some of our
mistakes, or some of our failures. The reality is that we cannot
protect everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we simply
do not have the resources to do it. And what we can do is ensure
that within those resources we do everything possible, and that
is what we do do.
123. You do not think that there would be a
certain amount of apathy among the police, for example, to say,
"There are so many cars stolen, this is a part of life and
we have to accept it; beatings go on, people are expelled from
their houses, and this kind of has to be accepted as well"?
Is there a determination to clean out of Northern Ireland this
type of activity?
(Mr McQuillan) I do not detect, in the command of
the RUC, or the officers of the RUC, any apathy towards protecting
people in Northern Ireland, or any acceptance that basically just
a crime happens. The officers I talk to are determined to try
to find better ways to work, better ways of doing things to tackle
these crime problems. Police officers are realistic, they know
that they cannot deal with everything and therefore they have
to focus resources on some issues; but very high up our agenda,
at every stage, is doing what we can to tackle the paramilitary
organisations, to tackle terrorism and to tackle the most serious
forms of crime, and these all fall into that category, in my view.
124. Is it problems relating to the police,
are there not enough resources, are there not enough personnel,
or are there some political restraints perhaps on them because
of the peace process?
(Mr McQuillan) There are always problems of resources,
Sir. The reality we face is that, because of the terrorist threat,
there are still major commitments that the RUC has to undertake,
and those are a very, very heavy drain on resources. In terms
of political constraints, I have been an Assistant Chief Constable
in the RUC now for something like two and a half years, and I
have not seen evidence of any political constraints upon us, in
terms of tackling these issues; in my experience, that is not
the way Government operates. At the moment, we have operational
independence, the new Police Act slightly redefines it as `operational
responsibility', but the reality is that we work very closely
with community leaders, we work very closely with the Police Authority,
we have a Policing Plan, but everybody we talk to regards these
as very high priority issues, and they are very high priority
issues for us, and I believe they are very high priority issues
for Government too.
125. You are dealing with beatings and shootings
(Mr McQuillan) Yes, Sir.
126. Are there records; many people have been
arrested for these types of activity, and what convictions have
there been in relation to them, over, say, the last three years?
(Mr McQuillan) I can look and see if there are reliable
figures for that. I can tell you that our success rate, in terms
of these specific intimidations, is very poor; that is not because
of a lack of focus on them, it is, in part, because of difficulties
in obtaining reliable evidence. And, very often, if I can give
you an example of that, as the Committee, I believe, is aware,
some 400 people have been forced to move in Belfast as a result
of the feuds within the Loyalist organisations. I believe that
fewer than 40 of those have reported intimidation to police, and
an even smaller percentage of them have been prepared to make
statements; we persistently find that. I mentioned the problems
in Larne. In Larne, over the last year, 1999, we arrested something
like 50 people and charged them in connection with sectarian attacks;
a large number of those finished up in court, but a number of
prosecutions in court failed because witnesses simply did not
turn up, or when they did turn up their evidence was not of sufficient
weight. So there are real difficulties, yes, Sir.
127. Is there no other alternative?
(Mr McQuillan) The alternative is for us to do everything
that we can to get the best evidence, and that includes things
like CCTV systems, and we do do that in appropriate cases. We
have had situations where, for example, people are intimidated
in their homes; we cannot get reliable evidence from them, we
cannot get reliable witnesses from the community. We have installed
CCTV cameras in houses, we put in specific operations to try to
catch the culprits, and a number of those have been successful.
In terms of paramilitary beatings, etc., it is much more difficult,
because so many of the people, many of the victims of those, are
not prepared to co-operate with us in any way.
128. The figures in the memorandum for the proportion
of house purchases by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive under
the SPED scheme attributable to requests from police officers
show a welcome fall, alongside an overall continuing trend of
reduced purchases under the scheme. To what is this attributed?
Is it now more generally accepted to have a police officer as
a neighbour in Northern Ireland?
(Mr McQuillan) I think what that is attributed to
is two things. The big increase in the number of RUC expulsions,
expulsions of RUC officers, accompanied the rise in violence around
Drumcree, in the mid nineties. I think that has now levelled out.
The officers who were most prominent and most exposed have probably
actually moved home, so in a sense they are not there to be expelled
any more. So I think that is the major answer to that. I think
the reality is that a lot of those things are quietening down
again, as, thankfully, over the last 18 months, the overall levels
of violence associated with the Drumcree period have stabilised;
stabilised at an unacceptably high level, can I say, but they
129. Do your colleagues in Great Britain and
the Republic of Ireland experience the same types of difficulties,
albeit not so extreme, with self-appointed local groups seeking
to control housing estates for their own purposes? What liaison
do you have on these matters with other forces in the United Kingdom
and the Republic of Ireland?
(Mr McQuillan) I think, Sir, that they do not experience
them on the same scale. I actually spent around three years working
as an Assistant Chief Constable in Heddlu Gwent Police, in Wales.
I had quite extensive contacts with colleagues in the rest of
the UK, and in my experience these are problems that occur, particularly
in inner-city areas, where you have gang cultures, in some areas
you have drugs cartels who fight for territory. So the answer
is, yes, we do experience common problems. Where possible, we
are plugged into the various national ACPO structures, the Association
of Chief Police Officers; we look at all the material that ACPO
is producing, we look at the strategies that are being developed
in other areas, and if we can apply them we will be delighted
to take them forward. The difficulty in Northern Ireland, I think,
is that our problem has very specific characteristics, not least
the overwhelming presence of firearms, and that lends a particular
dimension to it. But the bottom line is we do look at what is
going on, the rest of the UK, worldwide, actually, in terms of
strategies that might be used, and we try to adapt those to our
Mr Thompson: Thank you very much.
130. First of all, I am going to apologise for
arriving late. I asked a question earlier, but I fed off Mr McCabe,
so I knew that what I was asking was relevant to the question.
If I am now asking questions which have already been dealt with,
and you feel that they have been dealt with satisfactorily, just
tell me that and I can read those details in the record later.
In the RUC evidence, there were six areas that were covered, and,
although an area of interest to me is not specifically mentioned,
I realise it was touched upon in other ways, and that is areas
in which many of the IRA are seeking to control the Catholic community,
and a Loyalist paramilitary group are doing the same within the
Protestant community. I know that there are sections in the evidence
that you presented which are about the alleged criminal activity,
and that is an area in which these linked community connections,
as it were, are liable to arise. And then you also talk about
disputes between paramilitary groups, that were fighting, as they
were on the Loyalist side maybe, for the same territory and are
wanting to become prominent in those areas. But I was a bit surprised
that there was no concentration purely upon the notion that there
might be cases in which really what a lot of it is about is controlling
your own patch and your own community and you want groups of people
who are fairly quiet and subservient towards that, but then allows
all sorts of other activities and racketeering to take place.
Is that as common as I am suggesting?
(Mr McQuillan) Yes, I agree completely with what you
are saying, and that was one of the senses that I had intended
to try to convey in the written paper, and if we have missed that
I must apologise. Because, clearly, as I have said, in response
to some of the earlier questions, the key problem in all of this
is paramilitarism and the paramilitary groups who are seeking
to defend and expand their spheres of influence in these communities
for their own purposes, and they behave as organised crime cartels,
they are organised crime cartels; and that is exactly the issue,
131. And is that really more serious nowadays
than the areas you talk about, about victims of paramilitary feuds,
between paramilitary groups on the two sides of the community?
(Mr McQuillan) There are two broad issues, Sir. There
has been a long-term pattern of this attempt by the paramilitary
groups to maintain and extend their influence in their communities;
superimposed upon that, this last 18 months, we have had this
massive increase in these issues because of the in-fighting among
the Loyalist paramilitary groups. So that is the situation that
we face. Hopefully, that situation can be brought back under control
and be seen as short-term; but it has been a short-term flare-up,
in terms of that, which has led to a number of murders this year.
132. My next question links in with what I was
saying before, and it might have been that you touched on it earlier,
but, in response to Mr Clarke, you raised the question of restorative
justice, because what sometimes is argued is that the ways of
weaning the paramilitaries away from some of this activity, if
there has been some difficulty in the RUC getting into a particular
area, is to try to develop a different pattern of operations,
in which the criminal, or however you decide the criminal, and
the person who has suffered are brought together. What is your
general attitude about that, are there different patterns that
have been suggested of restorative justice which it might be more
possible for the RUC to work with than others?
(Mr McQuillan) I think the RUC's broad position is
that we strongly support the development of effective restorative
justice schemes in Northern Ireland, and we will do everything
that we can as a police service to support and assist the development
of those. We believe they are a very effective way of dealing
with criminals, particularly first-time offenders, and particularly
young offenders, who commit the bulk of crime, and certainly commit
the bulk of those offences that most affect the quality of life
and people. So we are very strongly supportive of that process.
We believe that that must be part of the overall criminal justice
system of Northern Ireland, that it must have legitimacy, be done
through legitimate channels, and that there must be appropriate
protection for all those involved, including both the victims
and the potential offenders; and that was what we wanted to say,
and that is what we will be working with Government to achieve.
133. What is the stage of development towards
what you see as these effective schemes and schemes that operate
within the justice system?
(Mr McQuillan) There is no legal framework for these
in Northern Ireland at the present time. However, the RUC has
set up a number of restorative justice schemes, working in partnership
with various agencies, and we are keen and intend to expand those
throughout Northern Ireland as quickly as possible. In addition,
we are currently waiting to see the Government publish its response
to the Criminal Justice Review, which was initiated by the Belfast
Agreement, and that recommended a strong emphasis on restorative
justice as part of the criminal justice system, and we hope that
that will be included in the Government's proposals, and we would
strongly support that. At the moment, we are trying to work with
partners across the community in developing partnership schemes
that do not have a statutory basis, but which we can do through
the normal way that we have always administered juvenile cautions,
for example, and we hope that the development of official schemes
will take this forward. There are, however, a number of unofficial
schemes, organised by groups on both sides of the community, and
those are in predominantly strong Loyalist or Nationalist areas,
and the groups concerned are involved in work with all sorts of
young people. We have made it clear that we would prefer to see
a clear, legitimate, statutory scheme which is set up by Government.
134. For a while, I have been interested in
problems about intimidation and beatings, and, on the other hand,
I am quite aware of many of the difficulties that the police have
faced over this period of terrorism. But it was not until I read
your document the sort of two parts of my mind linked up with
each other, and I realised that when we are talking about intimidation
and people being placed into exile, and internal exile, we are
also talking about the police, because they themselves face these
experiences. It might have been raised, I do not know; have you
anything further to say on that?
(Mr McQuillan) Over the years, there has been a steady
pattern of intimidation of, or threats to, police officers, not
just police officers, prison officers and members of the Royal
Irish Regiment as well, and in some cases Government officials,
and there has been a steady drip, drip, drip of individuals being
forced to move home because of threats to them, or direct intimidation,
attacks in their homes. We saw an upsurge in that in the early
nineties, because it has generally, in the past, come from the
Republican side, but we saw an upsurge in the nineties because
of additional intimidation by Loyalists. But that is absolutely
true, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of officers
who have been forced to move home at some stage. Additionally,
there are even larger numbers who have not been forced to move
home, who have stayed put and been determined to stay put, but
have still suffered intimidation.
135. So, at one period, the intimidation would
generally come from the Republican side, and being that it was
a force that was imbalanced, in terms of Protestants, directed
towards them, but then it would move much more to Loyalist pressure
that would be evident?
(Mr McQuillan) I would not say it was because it was
a force that had an imbalanced religious composition, it was because
people were police officers. For example, I think there is a feeling
that those police officers that Republican groups would single
out most for intimidation are Catholic officers. But there has
been a long-term pattern of targeting, and attacks on officers
and attacks on officers' homes and risks to officers' homes, from
Republican groups; that pattern continues. On top of that, over
a period of about five years, we saw a massive increase in Loyalist
groups targeting police officers and intimidating them out of
areas, and that was the reason for the hump in the head, from
about 1996 on, in the graphs.
Mr Barnes: Right; thank you.
Chairman: Mr Beggs's eyebrows moved at one point;
do you still want to ask a question?
136. Yes. There is a perception in parts of
Northern Ireland that certain individuals may have come into considerable
inheritances from illegitimate means. Is there no deliberate campaign
by the RUC to target such individuals, make them accountable for
their accumulated wealth that they have acquired and demonstrate
to the foot soldiers below them that crime does not pay?
(Mr McQuillan) There is that perception. To tackle
that demands a multi-agency approach; and the short answer is
that, yes, we are interested in that and we are working on that.
It is a long-term proposition; those are major inquiries that
take a very long time to come to fruition and need co-operation
across the spectrum of Government. We are working on those issues,
137. And a further supplementary from me. Is
it the fact that, because of the absence of community groups in
many parts of Northern Ireland, it is difficult to have good liaison,
and as community groups are established, on a cross-community
basis, then the task of policing and contact with communities
should become more easy, could get better?
(Mr McQuillan) Yes; and we would actually want to
encourage groups, encourage a shared sense of community. I think
that is part of the key. One has to be flexible on this, and sometimes
the response is actually to encourage groups on both sides and
then bring them together. But, ideally, one would want to encourage
cross-community groups, and we do a large amount, very often behind
the scenes, to try to support and foster those sorts of initiatives
in areas all across Northern Ireland, and we get a huge amount
of support for that as well from people on all sides of the community.
And, as I tried to emphasise earlier on, because when one deals
with an issue like this one tends to present all the worst side
of society, across Northern Ireland there are thousands of people
working very hard on just those sorts of areas to try to make
Mr Beggs: Thank you.
138. In the evidence that has been submitted,
in paragraph 30, it has two charts, one that shows a fall in paramilitary-style
assaults, from 1996 to 2000, and the other that shows an increase
in paramilitary-style shootings, from 1995; now that might be
surprising to numbers of people, that they might have thought
that it would be the shootings that would have declined, and the
paramilitary assaults that would increase. So I just wanted to
check that that was correct, and what it was that you felt was
the explanation for it?
(Mr McQuillan) I think, Sir, if you look at the relative
mix, the figures are correct, and what they tend to show is that
the increase in shootings is predominantly an increase in shootings
by Loyalists, and the overall increase in these sorts of attacks
appears predominantly to come from the Loyalist side. Our impression
is that since the mid nineties the Loyalist paramilitaries have
actually been more active in this sort of area, and we believe,
again, it is an attempt to bolster their position within their
respective communities. Against that, there has been a background
pattern of a continuing significant level of attacks by the major
Republican groups. I do not know if that fully explains it. And
what we have also seen is, obviously, that the Loyalist groups
have been increasing the seriousness of their attacks by using
guns as opposed to simple beatings.
Mr Barnes: Thank you.
139. Mr McQuillan, I think the transcript will
show that you did actually make a reference during your evidence
to an increase in the number of paramilitary shootings in the
context of recent years. Now the Committee knows that I see almost
all human life through a filter of cricket. You have played an
Athertonian innings, not only in terms of the length of time you
have been at the crease, but also the perfectly admirable way
in which you have treated every ball bowled to you on its merits
and have given very full and comprehensive answers. The whole
Committee is much indebted to you and, indeed, much admiring of
your stamina, in terms of the questions we have been raising.
(Mr McQuillan) I am an RUC officer, Sirs. Thank you
very much, Sir. I will endeavour to get the written answers to
the questions Members have posed as quickly as possible.
Chairman: Thank you very much.