29/01/2004

Fourth report on baton round alternatives published

The fourth report by the NIO on finding an alternative to the baton round, one of the recommendations of the Patton Commission on Policing, has been published today.

The report, entitled 'A research programme into alternative policing approaches towards the management of conflict' details two approaches that are considered to offer potential as alternatives to the plastic baton round.

One possible alternative is the 'Attenuating Energy Projectile' and the other is a 'Discriminating Irritant Projectile'.

Security Minister Jane Kennedy said the report set out the Government's position in relation to "the research programme to find an acceptable, effective and less potentially lethal alternative to the baton round, describing in detail two approaches that have real potential as alternatives".

The Minister said: "Very good progress has been made in developing these two alternative projectiles, in line with Patten's criteria and these are currently at the prototype stage."

The Attenuating Energy Projectile, is a result of research following up the previously published evaluation of the current baton round by the independent medical advisers. This approach is designed to reduce the peak force, thereby achieving a similar effect to the existing baton round, but more safely. Development work is continuing and subject to further testing, the government expects that this alternative will be deployed by summer 2005.

Other work continues on different technology, including the Discriminating Irritant Projectile. This would incapacitate a violent individual through delivery of irritant to their upper body, at a distance. An entirely new system for the UK this would take an additional year to develop.

This report also looks at other "public order equipment" including the introduction of new water cannon for the PSNI.

Commenting today, the Chairman of the Policing Board, Professor Desmond Rea, confirmed that the Board would be giving the findings in the fourth report "careful consideration"

Sinn Féin policing spokesperson Gerry Kelly responded by demanding that plastic bullets should be removed from operational use immediately.

Mr Kelly said: “The British government committed themselves to the removal of plastic bullets from operational use. These are lethal weapons that have killed 17 people. They should not be in use.

“The consideration of alternatives is no excuse to delay any further the removal of lethal plastic bullets. The PSNI and British Army have used and misused plastic bullets to kill and maim men, women and children. Any alternatives must be non-lethal.”

(SP)

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