25th February 2002
Special Branch - Still a `Force within a Force'
Speaking today at the launch of his party's latest poster campaign highlighting the role of Special Branch in the current policing arrangements Sinn Fein spokesperson on Policing Gerry Kelly said:
`` Last year, when it became clear that the British government was not prepared to deliver the Good Friday agreement requirements for a new beginning to Policing, we said we would mount a vigorous public campaign to achieve an acceptable policing service. Today is the latest stage in that.
`` Let me be very clear, Sinn Fein want to see a new policing service which we can support and call upon people to join.
`` A police service needs to be;
- Free from partisan political control.
`` This is what the Agreement requires.
`` We have not got that.
`` A glaring gap between the Patten recommendations and the current arrangements is the failure to deal with Human Rights Abusers and in particular the failure to deal with what Patten described as `a force within a force' - the Special Branch.
`` The freedom of action afforded the Special Branch by the British government is at the core of what remains wrong with Policing.
`` Democratic accountability is a key requirement of widespread acceptability. But the Special Branch remain `a force within a force'.
- Those who ran the Special Branch for years are still in place. So too is their ethos, mindset and practices. This prevents a new beginning.
- Patten required that human rights abusers in the police force be dealt with, but those responsible for torture, shoot-to-kill, cover-ups and collusion with loyalist murder-gangs simply moved en bloc into the PSNI.
- They continue to run Special Branch agents in the UDA similar to Tommy Lyttle, William Stobie and Ken Barrett who, with the full knowledge of Special Branch, were involved in the killing of Pat Finucane.
- The Chief Constable is legally empowered to reject requests by the Policing Board for reports on the activities of Special Branch agents and their handlers and these have included killings.
- With the endorsement of the highest levels of the PSNI, Special Branch blocked, obstructed and sought to mislead and subvert the recent inquiry by the Ombudsman into the Omagh bomb.
- No sanction of any kind has been imposed on any RUC or PSNI member for attempting to block the Ombudsman's investigation. The Special Branch and their superiors continue to act with impunity. They continue to thwart accountability.
- Inquiries into RUC and PSNI activities by Stalker, Sampson and O'Loan have been unable to breach the Special Branch wall of silence. The British government has ensured this is the case. They have refused to support those investigating serious human rights abuses including summary executions. They have denied the powers necessary to accountability mechanisms like the Policing Board to do the job Patten envisaged - to hold the police accountable.
- The Special Branch still operates as an unaccountable `force within a force'.
`` The Special Branch remain at the heart of the current policing structures and is untouchable. The Policing Board does not have the power or the authority to tackle the Special Branch or curb its influence.
`` Our campaign and our engagement with the governments will continue until we achieve a new beginning to policing. We will not sell our community short. Society cannot afford to be sold short on this issue. We will not accept a policing arrangement dominated by the Special Branch and answerable only to other the securocrats who control them.''
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