Crompton report hailed as a 'breakthrough' in policing

The recommendations of the Crompton Report have been broadly hailed as a "breakthrough" in Northern Ireland policing.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said that the external report by HM Inspector of Constabulary Dan Crompton illustrated that the Policing Board was conclusively dealing with the issue of Special Branch.

Mr Durkan said that light was being shone into the "darkest corners" of policing in Northern Ireland: "Special Branch once a law unto itself, is now being made subject to the same laws as the rest of us. The days of unaccountability and impunity are at an end."

The Policing Board had requested a "focused review into the handling and sharing of information between Special Branch and other parts of the Police Service" following the damning Police Ombudsman’s Report into the Omagh bomb investigation last February.

SDLP policing spokesperson Alex Attwood described the report as a "breakthrough for policing" and that Special Branch was being "brought to book."

"The report acknowledges that the Special Branch of the RUC had unfettered control. The old special branch is now being dismantled and accountable intelligence gathering in the future is being created within a new intelligence branch," said Mr Attwood.

However, Sinn Féin's policing spokesperson, Gerry Kelly, said that the report failed to address one of the core issues, that of when to pass information on.

Following yesterday's monthly meeting of the Policing Board, Board Chairman Desmond Rea thanked Mr Crompton and said the Board has asked the Chief Constable for his "considered reflections" on the recommendations and their implementation.

The Crompton report recommended improvements in the following key areas:

  • Early consultation with a senior CID officer for all proactive Special Branch type operations - to ensure that the future evidential requirements for a successful prosecution are considered as part of the decision making process within the operational plan;
  • More involvement of regional police chiefs in decisions about deployment on intelligence led operations;
  • Better evaluation of intelligence looking at its reliability, the source and who needs to get it (using a national model);
  • The introduction of joint IT systems to share intelligence - adequate safeguards would be built in;
  • Better career planning, more training and service-wide experience for detectives.

Mr Crompton said that whilst it was "essential to maintain the ability of Special Branch" it was desirable that a "more transparent and auditable decision making process was introduced" to ensure equity and accountability within the Police Service.

“My review doesn’t challenge the need for Special Branch, and doesn’t seek to undermine Special Branch, it is about improving efficiency and performance in the Police Service of Northern Ireland as a whole.”

Chief Constable Hugh Orde said his job was to ensure that "all departments work seamlessly to deliver an effective service in protecting the community - this report helps us in that direction and that is why I welcome it."

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary is to undertake a follow-up inspection in 12 months time.


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