Clause 5 - Duty of Director of Public Prosecutions to refer certain matters to Police Ombudsman

Part of Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:10 am on 1st April 2004.

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Photo of Rt Hon David Trimble Rt Hon David Trimble Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party 9:10 am, 1st April 2004

It is a pleasure, Mr. Benton, to get the sitting under way, just as I did last week. On that occasion, you had occasion to point out that I was speaking to the wrong amendment. I am speaking to the right amendment today, but one of the proposals contains a simple but important error. Amendment No. 36 should refer to ''before'', not

''after the coming into force of this section.''

The amendment raises an important issue, however, and it is particularly appropriate to touch on it this morning in view of what is going to happen in this place later today.

The purpose of the amendment is to prevent referrals to or investigations by the police ombudsman in respect of matters from the past—it is as simple as that. There are far too many examples of people are trying to refight old battles, or even to rewrite history. We shall see that more clearly later

today, but constant efforts are being made to encourage the ombudsman to look into past events rather than to focus on the present and the future, as he ought to.

Indeed, only a few weeks ago, the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland said that he simply does not have the resources to carry out all these inquiries into the past that people wish to raise. He is having enough difficulty finding the resources to police society adequately today and he simply cannot cope with looking into a whole host of past events as well.

To those hon. Members who keep expressing the wish to dig up the past and to rewrite history, I say that they are not doing a service to society today; they are contributing to the undermining of the effectiveness of the police service. It is astonishing that those hon. Members who urge the police to conduct lots of inquiries into the past are only a second later complaining about there not being adequate policing resources in their neighbourhoods to deal with existing crime. They need to think about that. Amendment No. 36 would ensure that the clause had effect only with regard to the future, not the past.