an essential part of policing

A short, but notable, snippet from yesterday’s meeting of the Policing Board on the reality of policing when it comes to certain operational matters

PSNI chief constable Hugh Orde, meanwhile, said the Ombudsman’s report was uncomfortable reading, but handing informants was an essential part of policing, and would continue to save lives and bring criminals to justice.

Adds Ignoring the tabloid headline, in the Belfast Telegraph Assistant Chief Constable Peter Sheridan explains why the PSNI will still use informants.From the Belfast Telegraph article

But there are two sides to this coin and while I in no way want to minimise the negatives, it is important to highlight the positive outcomes which can be directly attributed to the proper management and handling of intelligence.

In 2006, a total of 80 successful operations were mounted by police on the basis of intelligence supplied from C3 Intelligence Branch.

I have no doubt that these operations saved lives, resulted in arrests and charges and led to the recovery of drugs, weapons and illegal materials.

I am constrained about what I can say because of the legal process but let me give you some examples of those 80 operations:

the seizure of £18million worth of cannabis in Newtownards last October. This was the largest seizure ever made in NI, both in terms of quantity (three and a half tonnes) and value. Three men currently face charges in relation to this;

a major operation against dissident republicans last June which we believe was an attempt to procure a significant quantity of arms. This operation stretched across the UK and Europe. A quantity of materials was recovered; four people are currently facing charges and another four were reported to PPS;

last month officers from the Extortion Unit arrested seven suspects in two separate operations in Carrick and Lisburn. Again, intelligence played an important part in the police operations. All seven suspects were subsequently charged and are awaiting trial. In one of the operations, searches uncovered a firearm, cash and counterfeit goods. These operations have undoubtedly reduced the threat to public safety;

last April a proactive intelligence-led operation against dissidents in the Belfast area culminated in the arrest of seven individuals. Component parts for bombs were found and seven people were subsequently charged;

in Dunmurry 14 months ago, we arrested four individuals who we believe were members of a tiger kidnap gang. Those four suspects are currently awaiting trial;

last March, police arrested five individuals who had been involved in stealing life savings from a vulnerable older person in greater Belfast. Police recovered the money and four people have been charged.

You can see from these incidents that intelligence-led operations are not confined to some dark underworld of agents and spooks.

When it is handled and managed properly, intelligence can result in benefits for everyone in the community ? to protect older people preyed on by unscrupulous criminals, to protect young people at risk from drug traffickers, to protect the business community from gangs of violent robbers and extortionists.

In conclusion, the legislation is in place, policies and procedures that observe our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights are in place and, the highest standards of accountability and scrutiny are in place.

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  • Overhere

    I agree with what Sir Hugh said.

    All police forces rely to a certiain extent on informants, be that in England, France, America, the world over. In cases of drugs, prostition, people smuggling etc informants are needed for the police to be able to apprehend the criminals.

    But and this is a major but, you do not give the informants free reign to carry out their own criminal activities and murder people simply to keep their idenity safe. You do not allow handlers to sit in the interview room if the informer has been picked up on suspicion of a crime and feed the informer andswers from the investigating detectives.

  • Nevin

    Policing Board January press releases. They include comments on the Ombudsman’s report and the use of informants.

  • All police forces rely to a certiain extent on informants, be that in England, France, America, the world over. In cases of drugs, prostition, people smuggling etc informants are needed for the police to be able to apprehend the criminals.


    Agreed, but the rules governing Informants in Britain today is one of chaos.

    The rules governing Informants are as follows:

    First an informant is introduced to two annonmous Police officers from the Human Source Unit, who use false names.

    This means the informant never knows the real indentiy of his/her Police handlers.

    Informants are expected to reveal their sources so Police can then go to that source and negate the first informant.

    When the informant is hung out to dry they do not know the true indenties of Police Officers to seek redress from.

    Rewards are never paid as the 2002 Proceeds of Crime Bill prevents this.

    Historically, Informants motives were called the two R’s, Reward or Revenge.

    Today there are no rewards, revenge is not normally an option as it normally backfires in the long run, so we have a postion wherby intelligence gathering is down 90% in the last two years alone.

    The number of registered informants in Britain has fallen by 95% from several thousand to under a hundred.

    Potential informants now demand prompt payment for intelligence and when this is refused by penny pinching Police they reply

    “You pay peanuts, you get Monkey’s”

    Potential Informants have even taken to taunting Police by saying, “I can get info on a crime that is going to happen, I want paying up front” Police refuse, crime happens, Police frustrated and look helpless and hopeless.

    Britain has been awarded the dubious title of Europes Burglary capital this week and Police are being exposed to investigating crime without the help of informants.

    The results are a disaster and clear up rates are in free fall.

    Brit Police are so desperate for intelligence on the cheap, they are trying, as a last resort, to visit convicted crimials in prison to try and recruit Informants and gain intelligence.

    Intelligence gathering has become commecial so if Police don’t pay, they cannot play.

    Any sense of giving Police intelligence out of some mis-placed public duty was lost years ago during the transition of society to one of Avarice and of a vacuous nature.

    Gordon Brown has privatised everything else, so payment for services rendered when giving intelligence is a natural reality.

    Headline grabbing crime that is taken up by the media is normally solved because of the rescources put into those crimes, but the majority of crime is met by a crime number and “Don’t hold your breath” response from Police.

  • mushy

    Orde will find no shortage of informers among the leadership of Sinn Fein.

  • This is not about political intelligence gathering, it is about Bread and Butter Policing.

    Having people close to, but not actively involved in criminality, keeping Police abreast of criminal activity.

    Those kind of people currently refuse to sign up for lack of payments.

    Strict rules on Informants mean their use has been virtualy eliminated.

    A good thing or a bad thing, time will tell by future crime figures.

  • Art Hostage

    On the other hand, if Sheridan is happy to publicly list a series of crimes in which touts have played a part, you would assume there must be a hefty budget for witness protection/ CHIS relocation programmes. Otherwise he’s just signed a few death warrants.