20/12/2002

No alternative to baton rounds says report

There is no alternative to baton rounds when it comes to crowd control, according to a government report.

The Steering Group for the phase 3 report on baton rounds has stated that that there is "still no off-the-shelf, commercially available, effective and acceptable alternative to the baton round at this time".

The report also gives further details on the decision by PSNI to place an order for six vehicle-mounted water cannon announced in July this year, to enable them to be equipped with a broader range of public order equipment.

Security Minister Jane Kennedy today published the report on the third phase of the Patten research programme aimed at finding an acceptable, effective and less potentially lethal alternative to the baton round.

Ms Kennedy said: "We are energetically implementing Patten's recommendations on the baton round, and this phase 3 report reflects the commitment and urgency with which the research programme is being taken forward.

"It is a thorough and comprehensive piece of work which describes the extensive research into alternative less lethal systems conducted over the past 12 months. I believe it is unprecedented in terms of its national and international context.

"Building on the comprehensive evaluation on the phase 2 report, it details research so far into two alternative technologies offered by the private sector, and also sets out the urgent development research that the Northern Ireland Office has commissioned from the government's own professional advisers.

"I would welcome the views of the Policing Board, the Chief Constable and other interested parties on this latest report. Indeed the report invites comments on specific points. Comments from all parties with an interest in these important matters will always be welcome."

The report both sets out PSNI's approach to conflict resolution and policing with the community together with comparisons with the approaches in North America.

"I would be delighted if the public order situation improved and removed the need to resort to baton rounds at all. The whole community has a contribution to make to achieve that aim, but sadly we are not there yet," she added.

(GMcG)

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