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.
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.