by Democrat reporter
THE UNITED Campaign Against Plastic Bullets has categorically denied recent media reports that the independent assessor of military complaints had consulted widely as part of a review of procedures concerning the British army’s use of plastic bullets in the north.
Campaign chairperson Clara Reilly stressed that the campaign, and other organisations critical of the use of plastic bullets, such as the Derry-based Pat Finucane Centre, had not been contacted by the review, let alone consulted, over the weapon’s use. “The campaign has deep concerns about the ongoing unaccountable use of plastic bullets by the British army and would be happy to inform any process which is aimed at examining the growing use of plastic bullets on our streets.”
Questioning whether the review was genuinely ‘independent’, she suggested that it was being carried out with predetermined outcomes.
The campaign has promised to maintain its campaign for a total ban and for the immediate publication of the British Army’s guidelines on the use of plastic bullets, which have so far remained secret.
In a separate development in Britain, a request to the South Yorkshire Police force by Sheffield and South Yorkshire branch of the Connolly Association for copies of Association of Chief Police Officer’s (ACPO) guidelines on the use of plastic bullets and the ‘Conflict Management Model’ in operation in the area has been turned down.
Responding to a letter from the Connolly Association, chief superintendent David Turner wrote: “I am sure that you will appreciate that I am not in a position to discuss with outside bodies the operational deployment of the baton gun within South Yorkshire. The deployment and use of the baton gun within South Yorkshire will form part of the monitoring of our organisation by the Police Authority and the Independent Police Complaints Authority.”
“We can’t see any reason why this information, some of which is readily available to the public in Northern Ireland, at least as far as the police’s use of the weapon is concerned, should be withheld unless forces in Britain have got something to hide,” said local Connolly Association branch president Gerry Kelly.
“Our understanding is that the ACPO guidelines are in the public domain and we will be writing to them one more time asking for a copy of this document before taking legal advice on how we can obtain it.”
The branch is also to raise its concerns with local politicians and continue to pursue the issue with the Police Authority, which have so-far failed to respond fully to enquiries made by the branch back in July.
“The failure of the Police Authority to respond to our initial letter of concern to them back in July gives us no confidence whatsoever in their ability to effectively monitor this area of the police’s activities. In truth, we can’t even be sure that they are aware of the controversy surrounding these deadly weapons and the possible dangers this poses to civil liberties and public disorder,” said Mr Kelly./
Connolly Association, c/o RMT, Unity House, 39 Chalton Street, London, NW1 1JD
Copyright © 2002 Connolly Publications Ltd