Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-19)



  Q1 Chairman: Could I first of all welcome you, Sir Hugh and Mr Leighton. We are delighted to see you both. Thank you very much for coming, we are very grateful to you. I must begin with an apology because you have come on a rather strange parliamentary day when there have been some important votes. I have even received a message just a minute ago to say that there may be other votes during our session, so we will just have to take this as best we can. I know that those colleagues who are not yet here will be coming over as soon as they can. We had a full committee earlier in the afternoon before we adjourned, but you are most welcome. This is an important session. Sir Hugh, would you like to say anything to start with?

  Sir Hugh Orde: Thank you, Sir Patrick, and thank you for inviting us. It is nice to have an opportunity to say some things around a key issue in Northern Ireland, obviously policing. I will keep my opening remarks brief, but I think it is worth putting on the record that crime in Northern Ireland is at its lowest for six years. It is down by 17% in the past two years. That equates to 20,000 less victims of crime in Northern Ireland and I put that down to a combination of increased police activity and effectiveness and increased support from communities in what we are determined to deliver. In specific terms, just by way of a couple of figures, domestic burglary, one of the key issues for our communities, is down by 18% over that period, vehicle crime 24% and armed robberies, which were on the increase, are now down by 22%. Those trends are now fairly well-established. As I have said, that could not have been achieved without the support of the public and also I think it is worth highlighting the importance of our district policing partnerships in that regard, one of the key Patten reforms, local accountability delivered by local councillors and members of the public, many of whom have been put at personal threat by their determination to engage in policing and we commend them for that. I think at a strategic level some of our biggest achievements within our own organisation not only have been driving Patten forward but restructuring our crime operations department into a new unit of 1,200 officers, mainly detectives who deal with all serious and organised crime and who handle all intelligence, which is now centralised, to deal with any of the concerns which many people had around how we handle intelligence. I would put our recent successes in relation to the bank robbery and the arrests and some charges and significant arrests of UDA so-called brigadiers down to the coordinated approach to major and organised crime through that group. It has been very busy during the last two weeks in Northern Ireland arresting people for serious crimes against their own communities. I would also highlight the work of the Organised Crime Task Force, which is well-established now in Northern Ireland, bringing together all the other law enforcement agencies, and Garda Siochana, who we meet regularly, and indeed Paul and I met the Commissioner earlier this week. That relationship is carried out throughout all of my rank structures so that we meet regularly at different levels to make sure the across the border (which is a key issue in policing) is properly policed both north and south. I think it is also worth highlighting the Asset Recovery Agency. Substantial work has led to significant seizures of assets and in fact my organisation refers more people to the Asset Recovery Agency than any other Police Service does to the equivalent in the United Kingdom. It is a key issue for us. As a combination of those activities, be it asset recovery or our Organised Crime Task Force activity, we would say that of the 28 top level criminal gangs we have identified we have arrested over 120 people associated to those top 28 criminal gangs. In terms of counterfeiting goods, another key issue for us which fuels paramilitary activity, this year we have seized £3.2 million worth of counterfeit goods, indeed in one operation over two weekends nearly half a million pounds worth of counterfeit goods were seized. That is another key market for us. Although "market" is probably not the most appropriate phrase, much of the stuff is found in markets, but again it is substantial activity which we are determined to continue. In terms of our style of policing, Paul leads on our community style of policing, again in Trident and Patten, which is beginning to show real signs of moving forward now and I think we have some incredible achievements in terms of police officers now patrolling areas in armoured but ordinary liveried vehicles where police officers have not patrolled in that way for 35 years. It shows the determination of my local district commanders to push the edges of policing. In terms of the people who rely on our service, a recent survey, Victims of Crime, ie targeted at those who have required a police service, has shown an overall satisfaction rate of 90% in terms of access to the Police Service, a 77% satisfaction rate in terms of the actions taken by police when they called for help and a 70% satisfaction rate in being kept up to date with what had been done. If those figures were looked at in the round of the United Kingdom policing, we would be seen as twelfth in terms of satisfaction out of 44 forces, so it is an organisation which is delivering. In terms of recruiting, over 2,000 officers have now been recruited under the 50:50 regulations and despite a rather negative report recently released by some people who criticised the quality of police recruits (one of those members being an ex-chief constable from Wales), I am pleased to report that roughly a third of our officers are graduates. The standard, I think, is incredibly high and between myself and Paul we meet them all when they join. 37% of our new recruits are female and in terms of whether we are a popular employer, in our last competition for 220 vacancies we attracted 7,500 requests for information, of which 37% were from Catholics and 38% were from women. Our organisation is now about 19% from the Catholic community, up from 8%, which was the level before the Patten report. In terms of our experiences gained in Northern Ireland, we are very popular in terms of providing aid to other parts of the world and with support from our Police Board, whom we seek permission from before we send anyone anywhere, we have worked over the last three years in Bosnia, Kosovo, Ethiopia, Gaza, Palestine, Jamaica, Guinea, Estonia, New Zealand, Iraq and Hungary, to name just a few. We have some incredible best practice, which we are happy to export, and we benefit in the longer term from doing that. In terms of parades, we had 3,045 last year, of which it is worth reminding all Members that 99% passed off peacefully. It is a huge logistical operation. The vast majority of parades are no problem to the Police Service and no problem to the communities and they work very well. The Parades Commission, although new people are joining it, works and from a Chief Constable's perspective it is absolutely essential that I have a body which makes a decision around who can march where and which takes into account the concerns of communities, and we then have a determination which we enforce in terms of enforcing the law. Our next big challenge, I think, is a review of public administration, which is looking at the number of district councils in Northern Ireland. I have 29 districts in terms of policing. That is far too many. It is not economic, it is not efficient, and we are looking to see how that piece of work shapes out so that we can hopefully mirror a far smaller number of coterminous boundaries with a smaller number of districts. The other key issue is the Policing College. We now need the money to build it, and again Paul leads on that. I continually fail to benefit from legislation which is given to the rest of the United Kingdom, for many years in some cases. For example, we do not have a Crime and Disorder Act and if we are looking at trying to get the chief executives of these larger councils signed up to crime reduction, I think it is essential that is enshrined in legislation. Recent changes to pension regulations and policing, again I have been excluded from. That has the net effect of creating an isolated world in policing in Northern Ireland. Officers transferring from my organisation after that legislation passes will have to join a new pension scheme, which is not as attractive, which means they will not move. Equally, when we are trying to attract talent, as Patten saw as essential, people will not join the Police Service in Northern Ireland because their pension rights change fundamentally. I will draw to a close there, Chairman.

  Q2  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed for your opening statement. I am sure I speak on behalf of the Committee in congratulating you and Mr Leighton and all your senior officers for all you have achieved and we wish you continued success. We are going to try and make our questions as snappy as we can in view of the time constraints, but could I begin by just asking you about something extremely topical. As you probably know, the Northern Ireland Offences Bill (colloquially known as the "on the run" legislation) was published today and had its formal first reading. We are expecting a second reading debate in a couple of weeks' time. Can you tell us, Sir Hugh, whether you were consulted on this? There has been much talk of the consultation the government has had with chief constables on the wider terrorism issues. Were you consulted on this and do you have any comments on it?

  Sir Hugh Orde: Yes, I was consulted on it by Government and we made our views clear to Government. I have literally just been given a copy of the Bill, so I have not had an opportunity to see it in its final form. My comments, therefore, will be fairly broad. I need to consider the outworkings of the legislation and the impact on what we are doing. What I did not touch on in my opening comments was that one thing I am very proud of is our determination to re-investigate historic cases (as they are so-called), which are around 2,000 unsolved murders in Northern Ireland. It is the first time anything of this nature has been undertaken by any Police Service. It is a huge task. We have been supported by Government in terms of money to do that and I am reassured, providing the Bill is the same as the final draft, that we will be able to carry out that work and if we do find people who need to be arrested, interviewed, have their fingerprints taken and samples taken, we can do that because as I understand it on the draft—and I am sure it will be in the final product—people will not be able to avail themselves of this legislation until they are charged, and that is very important to the outworkings of that. The other reason the historic inquiry team is so important is because it is the first time for many victims that we will be able to sit down with the families and tell them what was done and how their loved ones died, what the investigation was like, whether more could have been done, whether opportunities were missed, whether there are lines to follow. This has not happened. I have met many families from all across the divide who are as interested in knowing what happened as they are in getting a judicial closure. It is not the same for every group, it would be fair to say. Some people will be happy with nothing less than a conviction, others simply want to know what happened; some actually do not want to know anything. The inquiry team will operate on the principle of maximum disclosure, but at least the whole range of activity, it seems to me, will be available to us. I think there will be some difficulties in managing it from a policing perspective. I do not anticipate it will be a popular piece of legislation. Some groups in Northern Ireland currently do feel very disadvantaged. They feel they are coming second and they may see this in a way which gives me a public order outcome to it. We will have to assess that when I have read it and when we see how it plays in the press. One thing I am clear on is that this is not the way of dealing with closure in the holistic sense. This is another piece of important business, clearly. My views on dealing with history are well-known. I think we do need to look at a wider range of solutions and I do think that includes such things as story-telling in some cases, bringing people together to understand what happened in many different ways. This Bill will not deal with that. It also, I think, begs a question around some other issues. There is a key issue which came to my mind, but I am afraid I have forgotten it for the moment, I am sorry.

  Q3  Lady Hermon: Sir Hugh, you are very welcome, as is your deputy, Paul Leighton. We are delighted to see you here today. Sir Hugh, may I just ask you whether in fact you and your officers, your leadership team, actually approve of the proposal in this legislation? I do have the benefit of having had it briefly explained to me by a Northern Ireland Office Minister this morning. Do you approve of the fact that police officers and members of the Armed Forces, if they are guilty of very serious offences, could come within this particular Bill, so that an equation would be drawn that they are on a par with criminal terrorists? Do you approve of that?

  Sir Hugh Orde: I do not think you can have a situation which excludes people. I do not think that would probably be lawful in terms of human rights legislation. So I think that if there is a system then it has to deal with everyone. I can fully understand that many of my officers will feel this is not right and I know many soldiers will feel this is not right because we need to be absolutely clear that the overwhelming majority of police officers and the overwhelming majority of soldiers did nothing unlawful throughout the Troubles. My history is well-known. I have spent two and a half years investigating allegations of collusion in Northern Ireland. It is also right that a very small number of people did commit criminal acts from the Security Forces, in my judgment, so those would be eligible for this, but I think perhaps we need to look at this in a slightly wider aspect. The point I had forgotten was the sort of uneven approach to history, for want of a better description, and I do not think it is right that we can have a system where there is a huge focus through public inquiry or other issues on a specific niche around the history, which is around collusion, and we forget about the fact that the vast majority of people, be they Security Forces or completely innocent people, died at the hands of terrorists. I think that point needs to be made explicit.

  Q4  Chairman: Are you saying no more Saville?

  Sir Hugh Orde: What I am saying, Sir Patrick, is that I do not think the piecemeal approach will work. What I am really interested in is how we bring closure for the victims. I think the primary overwhelming focus has to be on those who lost people and I do not think the legal process is best fitted sometimes to deal with cases which are 35 years old. The standard of proof, even in this legislation, I expect will be "beyond reasonable doubt", so if people are looking for conviction then I suspect they will be unlikely to achieve their objective. What I think we can do is narrow the gap and minimise the pain by looking at other ways of dealing with that within the principle of, as I call it, the maximum disclosure so that it allows us to tell them as much as we possibly can.

  Q5  Mr Campbell: Chief Constable, you will be aware that there would be hundreds of members of families of your former officers who would look upon today and the introduction of the Northern Ireland Offences Bill as the ultimate insult, that they would have seen their fathers, mothers, sons murdered many years ago, no prosecution, no one made amenable, and now through this legislation (if it were to proceed to become law) the perpetrator or perpetrators will be able to turn up, it would appear, and by virtue of a brief appearance recommence their lives. How do you think that impression will go down amongst those families of your former officers, hundreds and hundreds of them, in Northern Ireland? I know how the wider community feels and I felt the outrage, but I am really trying to focus on the families of those former officers.

  Sir Hugh Orde: I understand that. The first point is, as I understand the legislation they will not have to make a brief appearance. I think it can be done without them turning up. There is a number of things. One is that there are currently 2,000 unsolved crimes. These crimes have not been solved. They have been investigated. Our determination is to actually do something constructive and positive through our historic inquiry team. There is no incentive, in my understanding of the legislation, for people to come forward and say they have done something, to go through this process, so quite frankly I am not sure we will see an awful lot of people going through this process who have done that. There are those people who are outwith jurisdiction who will benefit from this legislation, but it is not really a matter for the current chief constable to comment on how they will feel. I think it is obvious that many will feel very hurt. Paul and I regularly meet the widows. I do not think we have missed one of their events since we have been here. They are a very important group to us, as are the disabled police officers who live daily with the injuries they carry as a result of the Troubles. I have to say there is a mixture. I think people underestimate just how flexible and forward-thinking some of these groups are and whilst I think there is a lot of hurt, I know (because I have spoken to them) that some people would say that if it moves the world on then they will live with it, however painful that is. I think there are some very impressive people who have lost their husbands many, many years ago and who have lived with this, but who see Northern Ireland looking forwards rather than looking backwards.

  Q6  Sammy Wilson: Could I just ask you, Chief Constable, from the discussions you have had on the legislation have you any idea how many people may be caught in this legislation and the range of crimes, from your knowledge of what they include here, in which they have been involved?

  Sir Hugh Orde: Potentially, as there are about 2,000 unsolved murders alone, there are over 2,000 people who, if the inquiry team came to a position where it felt it was able to arrest people—which is not going to happen, of course—could avail themselves of the legislation when charged. In terms of those outwith jurisdiction, we would say there are about 70 people outwith jurisdiction who could come back and benefit from this legislation.

  Q7  Chairman: The "on the runs"?

  Sir Hugh Orde: Yes, "on the runs".

  Mr Leighton: Those are the people whom we actually know of.

  Q8  Sammy Wilson: Chief Constable, I know that the police are aware of this quite frequently in crime situations, but during the discussions with the Government did you at any stage draw to their attention the fact that it may be possible for some of these people who are on the run to come back, to face a tribunal, perhaps where their cases are being investigated and charges are being preferred by the police and taken to a tribunal, but that they could be free to go to the houses or the streets or the towns where their victims lived? Did the police ask, because I do not see anything in the legislation, for the ability to place any restrictions on those who would have been involved to ensure that they did not go and taunt families, etc?

  Sir Hugh Orde: In the last draft we saw—and it was raised that there was a concern—the Bail Act does not apply to this legislation, so we cannot arrest people if we cannot put them to bail. It would be possible for someone to go back and live next door to the person they are accused of the murder of. Maybe it is something which should be dealt with by way of an amendment, but it was brought to their attention, yes.[1]

  Q9 Meg Hillier: Clearly, Sir Hugh, the entire process and proposal of the Bill is not within the hands of the police, but could you give us an estimate of the amount of time it might take for the police end of it to be dealt with if you were to include the 2,000 unsolved murders as well as the 70 "on the runs"?

  Sir Hugh Orde: The historic inquiry team is funded for the next six years and that is to deal with the 2,000 cases, and we will do our level best to deal with those cases. They will all be reviewed and assessed. Many, frankly, we will not have any evidential opportunities to pursue, but at least we can tell the families that and we can tell them what was done. So I do not expect a large number to get to a judicial conclusion. In terms of managing those people who would come back and avail themselves of the legislation, that is fairly straightforward because these are people who are wanted so warrants exist and cases exist in their current state. So that would be a fairly straightforward piece of business for us.

  Q10  Meg Hillier: Obviously it is not fair to go through the detail of the Act, but it does talk about the conditions including not being currently involved or likely to be concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. That seems to me quite a difficult judgment to make. Perhaps you could help us and talk us through how you would try and make that judgment as Chief of Police in Northern Ireland?

  Sir Hugh Orde: I am not sure that I am the one who is going to be making that judgment. We would rely on our intelligence sources. As I outlined at the beginning, our Crime Operations Group handle all our intelligence from all sources, so we would be fairly well-positioned in some cases to determine whether these people were currently engaged in terrorism. In relation to people who have been outwith jurisdiction for some time, some of these cases go back over 30 years so the likelihood of current intelligence is almost minimal. Whether the individuals have to make some form of declaration themselves or not, I do not know. There may be other ways of doing it, but certainly we would be in a position to inform the authorities as best we could on the basis of our intelligence picture of those individuals.

  Q11  Lady Hermon: Just before we leave OTRs, Chief Constable, if I were to say to you that it is my understanding that the legislation on OTRs does not come into force until 2007, could I just have a commitment from you and from your colleagues in the PSNI that if there is new and compelling evidence which becomes available whereby those who are suspected of very serious crimes return to the jurisdiction or otherwise bring themselves to your notice and are available for arrest, you will use the existing legislation and new and compelling evidence to bring those people to the courts?

  Sir Hugh Orde: Until the legislation is enacted then if someone who is currently wanted comes into the jurisdiction they will be arrested and charged. That is what we are obliged to do. Likewise, with the historic inquiry team, which is now starting to look at cases in the pro-active sense, if we were to get to a stage where we found a case that we could build then we would take it to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

  Lady Hermon: Thank you very much.

  Chairman: We will move on to security developments, which I think David Anderson wanted to lead on.

  Q12  Mr Anderson: Good afternoon, Sir Hugh. I want to ask you three linked questions. The IMC report on 19 October said that the position was encouraging in terms of the behaviour of the IRA since the 20 July statement. Can you give us an update on that? Also, what (if any) impact has the decision of the LVF to have a stand down of its members had? There is also the worrying thing which happened last week with the bomb hoax at Down Royal and at Waterfront Hall. What, if anything, can you tell us to try and control that, because our understanding is that the continuity IRA say that they are going to make this a tactic to disrupt in the run-up to Christmas?

  Sir Hugh Orde: In terms of the IMC report, the next one is due in January. I think that is the critical one, because we will have had a bit more time to assess what is going on. I think you will have seen the activity over the last two weeks in relation to some of the other cases which I am on record as saying were committed by the Provisional IRA, the bank robbery, and people have been arrested in relation to that and indeed charged. It is right that if one were to look at the key indicators, we would certainly look at in the routine punishment beatings and punishment shootings. They have stopped in terms of ones we would attribute to Provisional IRA activity. We have seen that trend before. It shows the control the organisation has on its people and it may well be because they want a clean bill of health in the next IMC report. What I am clear on is that I think the next one is important, but I think we need to look at the one after that and the one after that. We need to keep the structure in place that holds all paramilitary groups to account, not just the IRA. I think the word "encouraging" is probably right at the moment. One needs to be realistic about this. It is an illegal organisation. There are limits on how it can lawfully fund-raise, obviously, and we are keeping a very close eye on criminal activity and we will report fully and frankly to the IMC on everything we find in relation to all paramilitary groups in our next report. So that is where we are on that. In terms of the LVF, it is too early to say, quite frankly. I said at the time we would wait and see, and I am still waiting to see what happens next. We have got no indications that disarmament of Loyalist groups is imminent, so we have to wait and see. On the bomb hoaxes, let us be clear, the dissident Republican groups are determined to wreck the huge progress that Northern Ireland has made, and it is huge progress. If one was to talk about five years or 10 years, I think what has been achieved is outstanding. Their activities at the moment are badly disrupted, both north and south of the border and Garda Siochana, I think, actually arrested more last year than we did and have locked them up. We have been very successful. In their recent bombing campaign based in Ballymena we arrested and charged a large number, worryingly young people who were out committing those offences. So they are looking at economic targets, they are looking at disruption, they are looking at actually making people's lives very uncomfortable and I would not be surprised to see them continuing that activity, certainly in the Christmas period. Economic targets is where I would see their prime activity. I was actually at the racecourse on that particular day. I had won the first two races as well! What was important was to see that the skills of my officers had not diminished over time. The evacuation was well-handled by stewards and police. The investigation will be comprehensive and run by the Crime Operations Group. We are treating all these as a linked series of crimes run as a major inquiry and we need to bring those people to justice.

  Q13  Sammy Wilson: Chief Constable, you mentioned that the punishment beatings have been turned off currently, and of course we have seen this in the run-up to presidential visits and at other sensitive times when the IRA have been capable of doing that. Could you make some comment on whether or not in your raids for counterfeit goods, which you mentioned earlier on, and in other criminal activities there is evidence that those criminal activities are being carried on by either those who are currently involved in the IRA or those who are using their IRA experience?

  Sir Hugh Orde: I will ask Paul to cover the detail, but in terms of punishment beatings it is true they have stopped from Republicans. They have not stopped within Loyalist groups. So it is a mixed picture and Loyalists have been carrying out more punishment beatings in the last year, consistently higher than Republican groups. In terms of the overall picture—

  Mr Leighton: It is fair to say that organised crime, in which counterfeiting plays a large part in Northern Ireland, has a lot of people who have links with paramilitary groups. That does not mean to say they are carrying on their activity on behalf of those paramilitary groups, but there is a very clear history that people who have been involved in paramilitarism have got links with different ways of making money. Certainly some of the work we have done recently across the province—and you will be aware of operations in Jonesborough Market and in other parts of the province—would indicate there are links with people who have links with paramilitary organisations, but that is not to say that the organisations are behind the operations.

  Q14  Lady Hermon: Sir Hugh, moving slightly sideways here, you will be well aware that today we have been discussing the Terrorism Bill in the House of Commons. The Government wished to have 90 days, reviewed every seven days by a High Court Judge. In an intervention on the Home Secretary earlier today I did invite him to disclose to us whether in fact he had consulted with you as the Chief Constable of an area of the United Kingdom which has had the most to do to tackle terrorism. Could you please elaborate to the Committee on whether in fact you and your leadership team would have been supportive of 90 days?

  Sir Hugh Orde: The short answer is yes, I am, but I think there needs to be some qualification of that statement. First of all, no chief constable would want to keep someone for 90 days and I think if there is one thing Northern Ireland is an exemplar of in terms of policing is the human rights based approach to policing, which is a unique training structure in the whole of the United Kingdom. We train our officers for double the time anyone else does against a human rights background. So it is something we take very seriously. I also think it is a situation where the vast majority of cases would not need 90 days. However, there is a fundamental difference between policing terrorism in Northern Ireland in the domestic sense and policing what we call international terrorism. Northern Ireland is not exempt from international terrorism. We currently have one individual charged with offences linked to international terrorism going through the courts and another in custody, which obviously I cannot talk about in too much detail, but I think what we are looking at in the extreme are situations where you are dealing with multi-jurisdictional issues, you are dealing with substantial language issues, you are dealing with highly technical crimes, crossing international boundaries involving emails, the use of mobile phone technology and a cell structure which makes them very hard to break, and I fear there will be cases where we will need substantially longer than 14 days (as I currently have) to deal properly with those cases if we are to carry out our duty of preserving life. International terrorism is different. It has been evidenced very clearly in London recently where over 50 people died in outrages where dying was part of the plan, and that is different to policing the terrorist history we have in Northern Ireland where dying was never part of the plan. There are accidents, but there is not one case of a suicide bomber. Proxy bombers would have been the closest I think we saw in Northern Ireland. This is different in scale, it is different in complexity, it is different in the types of people we are dealing with and their motivation, and there are cases which will require substantial forensic examination, the seizing of computers—in recent cases we have seized one or two computers, but you will be looking at dozens of computers—and you will be looking at complex hard drives which need de-crypting. All of these skills are in demand, increasingly in demand. My computer crime unit is increasing exponentially in terms of demand for its services because of the nature of crime moving on. So my judgment is that there will be cases, I fear, where 14 days or 28 days are simply insufficient. That leaves us with difficult decisions to make. It may be that there are cases where interim charges can be brought and people can properly be detained for proper charges, properly drawn, but we should not be looking to use that as a tactic simply because we cannot do it properly under scrutiny. I think the other bit which seems to have been missing in the debate is that this is not something where a chief constable says, "I will lock you up for 90 days," it is something where we would routinely go back to a proper judicial authority to seek permission and if I could not convince a judge—and we spend a lot of time trying to convince judges on these cases, every 48 hours in our case—that I am carrying out an expeditious, an efficient and effective inquiry, the judge will not allow me to keep that person in custody.

  Q15  Lady Hermon: Exactly. May I just ask you, Chief Constable, are you personally disappointed that the Government has lost the vote for 90 days and that the vote has carried 28 days? Are you personally disappointed in that?

  Sir Hugh Orde: I am disappointed. I met with Assistant Commissioner Hayman this morning to further brief myself on the threats facing London, and I do think that we need to have a comprehensive system properly underpinned by judicial authority which gives us that opportunity with extremists. I think the other bit that was missed is that this is not everyone locked up for 90 days. This is the case where in a very small number of cases to protect life we need longer.

  Chairman: We are straying away from the exact remit of this Committee, but thank you for that. We are moving towards organised crime.

  Q16  Mr Campbell: Very briefly, Chief Constable, you stressed the importance of the next IMC report in January and the equal importance of subsequent IMC reports, but the period between 28 July when the IRA made the statement and now is a greater period of time than the period between now and the January IMC report. Would you be able to give an assessment now of the capacity of the IRA, what it is likely to be in January?

  Sir Hugh Orde: In terms of capacity, I am on record ad nauseam of saying I do not see the IRA as going back to any sort of armed struggle. I said that before their declaration and I continue to say it now. That is not in their game plan, in my judgment. In terms of what they are up to, I think the right way of dealing with this is to go through the IMC because the IMC consults far wider than just the police. We are a critical element of what is disclosed to the IMC, obviously, but they do seek the views of other people and they form a more holistic approach to this. I would be surprised to see any paramilitary organisation stop overnight the IRA, the LVF, the UDA, or anyone else. So I think I will be as interested in trends as I am in finality.

  Q17  Mr Campbell: Are they likely to stop by January?

  Sir Hugh Orde: I do not think the IRA are going back to any sort of arms struggle before January, no.

  Q18  Mr Campbell: But are they likely to stop their activities?

  Sir Hugh Orde: As Paul pointed out, the difficult analysis will be around whether people are operating on behalf of an organisation or are they acting on behalf of themselves, and it is a very complicated picture and I would not want to pre-empt what I am going to tell the IMC.

  Chairman: We are now moving towards organised crime, of course, and you will know that the Committee has decided its first measured inquiry will be into organised crime in Northern Ireland and I am sure we shall be seeing quite a lot of you and Mr Leighton on this one. Could I ask Gordon Banks to lead off on that?

  Q19  Gordon Banks: Sir Hugh, as we are all well aware in this room, organised crime is obviously a very serious problem and there does seem to be an escalation rather than a decrease in this area. As Sir Patrick has mentioned, we will be looking at that over the coming months. How would you assess the scale of organised crime in Northern Ireland presently and how confident are you that the PSNI and the other agencies of the Organised Crime Task Force can significantly reduce the level of criminality over the coming months, bearing in mind that there is an obvious escalation, so that you are starting from an even footing?

  Sir Hugh Orde: I am not sure I accept that there is an escalation in organised crime. I think it is a mixed picture. As I touched on at the beginning in terms of armed robbery, which is something which caused us huge concern, it is down about 20%. It is down from just over 1,000 to about 820 this year, so substantial police effort has made a major impact. I also touched on the fact that my crime operations group through getting more organised in terms of dealing with organised crime has made a major impact in disrupting what we would call level 2 crime. Indeed, the recent HMI report looking at restructuring, the level 2 crime work, most of that was drawn from my analysts because we are seen as an area of best practice in how we deal with cross-border criminals operating not just across our boundaries but across international boundaries, which again we touched on in terms of our operations on smuggling and counterfeiting goods. So I am confident we are more than fit for purpose. I benefit from a far larger Police Service for 1.6 million people than any of my chief officer colleagues in other forces. I have more officers, so we can put substantial resources in, and where we are benefiting to some extent (distance aside) is that we are able to focus more on crime using those resources to deal with criminals rather than anti-terrorist activity. Just one example of that would be the cross-border waste smuggling, which has a major impact not just in Northern Ireland but also in Scotland, where it is actually ending up. An operation involving Garda Siochana and ourselves, and Scottish police forces, has pretty much dealt with that once and for all, we think, and substantial arrests have been made in that particular crime, which was (a) very profitable, and (b) very organised. That has been dealt with. That was actually ordinary criminals. That was not what we would see as linked to paramilitary activity at all.

  Mr Leighton: I think it is worth noting that with the 300 mile land border we are going to have elements of organised crime which other parts of the UK are not going to have. On counterfeiting, which has already been mentioned, for instance, we seize more than other Police Forces in the UK simply because it has become a way of life for a lot of people in Northern Ireland to make their living by selling counterfeit goods. Everything from Gap clothing to vodka and cigarettes are counterfeited. We have fuel smuggling, which of course the Committee will be well aware of, which would not occur in other parts of the UK, and other types of smuggling where there is a differential in duty. These happen in any countries where you have got a land border with a differential in duty. So we have elements of organised crime which are not present in other places, but it is also fair to say that the cocaine trade, and the crack cocaine trade in particular, which has happened in various big cities in England and Wales, has not really got to us yet. We are very alive to the possibility that it might get there, but that element of organised crime is something that we have not yet seen. So there are some things that are with us that are not in other places and some things that are not.

1   Section 7111 of the Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill prevents a person who holds a certificate of eligibility from being remanded in custody or on bail to which conditions can be attached. Back

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