Report of The Advisory Committee on Police in Northern Ireland
[Key_Events] [Key_Issues] [Conflict_Background]
Presented to Parliament by Command of His Excellency the Governor of Northern Ireland
Published in Belfast by,
SBN 337 10535 9
Crown copyright material has been reproduced under licence from the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationary Office.
1. On Tuesday, 26th August 1969, we were appointed by the
Minister of Home Affairs of the Government of Northern Ireland
to 'examine the recruitment, organisation, structure and composition
of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Special Constabulary
and their respective functions and to recommend as necessary what
changes are required to provide for the efficient enforcement
of law and order in Northern Ireland.'
2. The importance and urgency of this task was impressed upon
us in view of the situation following the disorders earlier in
the month. After a visit by the Home Secretary of the Government
of the United Kingdom on 7th September the hope was expressed
that our report might be available in time for it to be discussed
with him early in October, when he is to make a second visit to
3. Both on account of the speed with which so wide-ranging an
enquiry had to be completed and of the nature of the task itself,
we decided that our enquiries should be informal and confidential,
that we should confine ourselves mainly to contacts and visits
within the ambit of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster
Special Constabulary and that we should seek written evidence
and opinion outside the police forces privately, rather than invite
submissions from all sources. To have done otherwise would certainly
have prolonged our mission far beyond the time-table which we
have been set, without adding to the technical information upon
which we would have to base many of our recommendations.
4. In the course of our examination we paid visits to the Headquarters
of the Police Force at Brooklyn, to those at Belfast and Londonderry
and in all the Counties. We visited a number of District Headquarters,
sub-districts and police stations, including several stations
on the border with the Republic of Ireland. We spent a day at
the Training Depot in Enniskillen. During these tours we met
and held informal discussions with many members of all ranks in
the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Special Constabulary.
We received a memorandum from the Central Representative Body
and met representatives of its County Consultative Committees.
We had meetings with representatives of the District Commandants
of the Ulster Special Constabulary and the Retired Police Officers'
Association, with two former Inspectors-General and two former
Deputy Inspectors-General. We take this opportunity to record
our appreciation of the co-operation which we received from the
Inspector-General and all ranks in the police.
5. Among our contacts outside the police force were the G.O.C.,
Northern Ireland, leaders of the Churches, the Lord Chief Justice
and the Attorney General, representatives of the Bar Council and
the Incorporated Law Society of Northern Ireland, chairmen and
secretaries of the local authority associations, Chairmen of County
Councils, Resident Magistrates, the Chairman and General Manager
of the Londonderry Development Commission, representatives of
the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade
Unions, proprietors and editors of newspapers, representatives
of the B.B.C. and Ulster Television, the Vice-Chancellors of both
Universities and a number of other private citizens. We were
privileged to be received by His Excellency the Governor and to
visit the former Governor, Lord Erskine. Had time permitted,
we would have wished to consult many others.
6. The magnitude and complexity of the undertaking, necessarily
compressed into so short a period, intensive and concentrated
though it has been, has compelled us to limit our studies to certain
main questions which seemed to call for immediate decisions; but
we have noted many other matters relating to the police forces
which merit further consideration and which we believe to require
changes and improvements. We have been able only to point to
these matters, indicate the nature or direction of change and
propose the procedure for further enquiry or action.
7. We have been able to bring to bear on the matters falling within
our terms of reference a varied background of experience gained
in other police forces in the United Kingdom and India, and during
military operations elsewhere in aid of the civil power. But
we are well aware that, for historical and other reasons, the
particular problems in the enforcement of law and order in Northern
Ireland have resulted in differences in the functions, organisation
and control of the forces here. These differences have en ' joined
caution upon us in applying our own experience to the problems
in the Province, and we were aware of the danger of drawing conclusions
based on 'sand-table' exercises; but we have borne firmly in mind
the fact that it is the future which we were invited to consider.
8. It is a truism that the police forces in any country operate
within the context and in the climate of the political conditions
and stability of that country. Their task of enforcing law and
order is inevitably affected by social, economic and other circumstances
arising out of these general conditions; it must perforce be more
onerous in an unstable situation. We feel it desirable to make
this obvious point, in view of the special difficulties under
which the police have operated in the past, which may persist
in the Province in the future, which are not the making of the
police themselves, and which make their task at times both difficult
9. In Particular, we would point to the growing cult of violence
in society, the increasing tendency of a minority to flout the
law, undermine authority and create anarchy. This trend is not
peculiar to Northern Ireland, for its instigators latch on to
any pretext wherever they can find one to exploit; to some extent
it is a symptom of a general malaise among youth . We have taken
carefully into account the need to ensure that changes in the
police force are made with a view to enabling it the better to
perform its duties, in the light not only of those troubles which
have been a particular feature in the history of Northern Ireland,
but also of the more recent agitations which are more widespread.
10. However, we are convinced that the police force can and should
play a leading part, not only in enforcing law and order, but
in helping to create a new climate of respect for the law, a new
attitude of friendship between its members and the public, and
a sense of obligation among all men of goodwill to co-operate
with the police in fulfilling their civic duties in the Province,
notwithstanding any wider political aspirations which they may
have. Our principal recommendations are framed with a view to
enabling both the police and the citizens of Ulster to move towards
a better relationship with one another in order to achieve this
common need and purpose.
11. Our proposals offer a new image of the Royal Ulster Constabulary
as a civil police force, which will be in principle and in normal
practice an unarmed force, having the advantage of closer relationships
with other police forces in Great Britain. Our recommendations
further advocate some measures to make the Royal Ulster Constabulary
more accountable to the public, and others which should enable
it to develop closer relationships with the community. As regards
those tasks of a paramilitary nature which the Royal Ulster Constabulary
has shouldered since its inception, we make proposals which would
relieve it of this responsibility.
12. In the light of these changes we hope that there will be,
in future, many more people in the community, whether they be
Catholics, Protestants or of any other faith and denomination,
as well as those who hold no religious beliefs, who will now be
willing to join in active support of the police in their necessary
and difficult job.
13. We have been most concerned by the harm which, during the
disturbances in the past twelve months, has been done to the image
of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, not only in the Province but
in the eyes of the world, resulting in some lowering of morale
among members of the force, and loss of public esteem. Allegations
against some police officers, albeit mainly in circumstances of
severe stress and provocation, at times under attack from that
appalling weapon, the petrol bomb, against which they had no defence,
are not a matter for comment by ourselves. But we cannot
stress too strongly the catastrophe which must befall any society
which ceases to respect the rule of law or takes the law into
its own hands.
14. We feel bound to deplore the extent to which some press and
television coverage of these events has resulted in magnifying,
in the minds of readers and viewers, the actual extent of the
disorders, in generalising the impression of misconduct by the
police and of bad relations between police and public, while sometimes
failing correspondingly to illustrate the calm which has prevailed
in most parts of Ulster, or the degree of deliberate provocation,
the danger and the strain under which the police, frequently and
for long periods, tried to do their duty, as well as the fact
that the great majority acted not only with courage but with restraint.
Such impressions may, as in this instance, do harm to the future
maintenance of law and order and the restoration of confidence
upon which this so largely rests. We wish to take this opportunity
to correct the perspective.
15. We make these observations, not to criticise, but to draw
attention to a general matter and its effect on the problem of
Northern Ireland. This is the power and the weakness of mass
media and modern communications, which rightly focus attention
on grave problems, but outside the ambit of those problems, also
tend to enlarge and confuse rather than clarify these complex
issues in the minds of people the world over, often in an attempt
to simplify them. This in turn, has brought pressures to bear
on those involved in the problems themselves which may make a
solution more difficult. It has happened here.
16. None the less, it is undeniable that important changes are
necessary in the police force of the Province and that it is essential
to make these quickly. We emphasise the need to make these changes
with firm resolve and courage. Some of them will cause breaks
to be made with hallowed traditions; others will mean some personal
sacrifice and an end to devoted and distinguished service. All
the changes will call for a determination to look forward rather
than backwards, and to have faith in the future. We believe that
nothing less will suffice to make the police acceptable to all
but wrongdoers; to help create a better relationship between all
sections; to provide a more appropriate system of defending the
Province from subversion, as well as for maintaining law and order.
17. We hope and believe that all ranks in the police force will
set the example which is inherent in their calling, by co-operating
in this difficult task. We feel encouraged by the fact that so
many of those whom we met suggested or supported a number of the
changes which we now advocate; we think that most of our proposals
reflect widely-held views within the force.
18. We also believe that these reforms, while some of them are
bound to cause misgivings in some people, will be widely accepted
by reasonable men and women in Northern Ireland and we hope that
the Government will endorse them accordingly.
19. There is one final point; it is perhaps the most important
of all those which we have to make. We believe that the recommendations
in this report will call for outstanding qualities of leadership
to carry them out. There must be a conviction of the need for
the changes and a due sense of urgency. There must also be an
ability to appreciate the problems of Northern Ireland and the
sensitivities of its people combined with a determination to chart
a course towards the future, undeflected by the events of the
20. This is a great opportunity in the distinguished history of
the Royal Ulster Constabulary to take a big step forward and meet
the challenge of these difficult and changing times. We hope
and believe that all ranks will seize this opportunity and that
the Government of Northern Ireland will provide the essential
means to do so.
175. Before bringing together the recommendations and suggestions
for changes in the R.U.C. and for the creation of two separate
forces to perform those duties at present carried out by the U.S.C.
which we consider will still have to be performed, we would like
to preface them by setting out what we regard as the most important
considerations upon which efficient enforcement of law and order
176. One of the most important of these must be that the control
and administration of any police force should be vested in such
manner as will ensure that it will not only be, but will be seen
to be, impartial in every sense and that it should be accountable
to the public for its actions. Furthermore, in the eyes of the
public it must be seen to be civilian in nature and to achieve
this it is in our opinion essential that individual police officers
should perform their duties without carrying firearms other than
for a particular purpose, at a particular time and in a particular
177. Another consideration is that the authorised establishment
of any police force should be sufficient to enable it to perform
its duties effectively ana efficiently. The R.U.C. is, in our
view, seriously below effective strength and we regard it as essential
that it be brought to full establishment as soon as possible.
178. It is a truism that the morale of a force plays an important
part in its general effectiveness and that isolation, even the
feeling of isolation, from other forces can have harmful results.
Close association with other police forces at all levels is to
our mind essential, not only as a means of ensuring that experiences
encountered and methods adopted elsewhere can be brought to bear
on local problems but also during periods of extreme difficulty
of the kind experienced by the R.U.C. in recent months, when the
helpful advice and encouragement of fellow police officers in
the rest of the United Kingdom would have proved invaluable.
179. We have therefore made a number of recommendations which
are designed to bring the R.U.C. into full partnership with their
colleagues in Great Britain without in any way shifting the responsibility
for law and order in the Province from the Government of Northern
180. But close comradeship with other forces is not enough. Public
confidence must also be established if morale is to be maintained
at a sufficiently high level. We believe that implementation
of the recommendations and the suggestions which follow should
provide the opportunity for closer and more informal contacts
to be established between the R.U.C. and the community. We also
believe their implementation should make possible a high degree
of co-operation between police and public in the task of maintaining
law and order, each becoming equally identified in a common need.
181. We particularly hope that in these new conditions more Roman
Catholics will wish to join the ranks of the Royal Ulster Constabulary
and will offer themselves for service in the new part-time forces,
the setting up of which we also envisage.
182. As regards those tasks of a military character which have
hitherto been carried out by the Royal Ulster Constabulary and
the Ulster Special Constabulary and which are concerned with the
protection of the Province from armed attacks from within or outside
its borders, we consider that in principle and in practice this
responsibility should properly rest with Her Majesty's Government
(1) The R.U.C. should be relieved of all duties of a military
nature as soon as possible and its contribution to the security
of Northern Ireland from subversion should be limited to the gathering
of intelligence, the protection of important persons and the enforcement
of the relevant laws (paragraph 82).
(2) There should be a Police Authority for Northern Ireland, whose
membership should reflect the proportions of different groups
in the community (paragraphs 87,88).
(3) The Police Authority should be responsible, subject to the
authority of the Minister of Home Affairs, for the establishment
and maintenance of an adequate and ef:ficient police force, for
the appointment of the chief officer of police and certain senior
officers, for buildings, vehicles and clothing (paragraph 89).
(4) The Police Authority should have a particular duty to keep
itself informed as to the manner in which complaints against the
police are dealt with (paragraph 90).
(5) The chief officer of police should submit an annual report
to the Minister of Home Affairs and to the Police Authority (paragraph
(6) The chief officer of police should submit a report on any
matter when required to do so by the Minister (paragraph 92).
(7) The Minister of Home Affairs may call upon the Police Authority
to require a chief officer to retire in the interests of efficiency,
subject to certain safeguards (paragraph 92).
(8) The R.U.C. should be subject to inspection by Her Majesty's
Inspectorate of Constabulary (paragraph 93).
(9) A Police Advisory Board should be established for consultation
between the Minister, the Police Authority, and all ranks of the
force (paragraph 94).
(10) The need to retain some police stations in border areas should be reviewed (paragraph 96).
(11) The rank structure should be reviewed (paragraph 97).
(12) The maximum term of duty in the Reserve Force should be three years (paragraph 100).
(13) When the Reserve Force has to be deployed for crowd control, overtime should be payable where appropriate to all ranks (paragraph 100).
(14) The Reserve Force should be renamed (paragraph 100).
(15) A civilian welfare officer should be appointed to the R.U.C. (paragraph 101).
(16) The present policy for the general issue and carrying of firearms should be phased out as soon as possible (paragraph 102).
(17) Certain weapons should be no longer part of the equipment of the R.U.C. (paragraph 102).
(18) The effective strength of the force should be increased as a first priority (paragraph 104).
(19) The establishment of women police should be reviewed (paragraph 105).
(20) A volunteer reserve police force should be set up (paragraph 109).
(21) The establishment of a Cadet Corps should be considered (paragraph 111).
(22) There should be O. & M. studies of the administrative process so as to reduce the time spent by members of the force on duties which could be done by civilians, or where modern equipment would help (paragraph 112).
(23) The extent to which the police are engaged on extraneous duties or by private employers should be examined (paragraph 113).
(24) Armoured cars should cease to be part of the equipment of the R.U.C. (paragraph 114).
(25) The building programme should be reviewed (paragraph 117).
(26) The practice of reserving a specific proportion of vacancies in the force for Roman Catholics should be discontinued (paragraph 124).
(27) Vigorous efforts should be made to increase the number of Roman Catholic entrants into the force (paragraph 124).
(28) The establishment of a central recruiting office at Police Headquarters, with a branch at Londonderry, and supported by nominated officers at County Headquarters and mobile touring teams, should be considered (paragraph 126).
(29) Simplified application forms should be available at all police stations; in particular, applicants should not be required to disclose their religion on their initial applications (paragraph 126).
(30) The programme of talks to sixth-formers should be extended and use should be made of other publicity media (paragraph 126).
(31) The possibility of acquiring accommodation for training in Great Britain should be examined (paragraph 128).
(32) The Home Office and the Scottish Home and Health Department should be asked to consider sympathetically any applications for places on courses of higher training (paragraph 130).
(33) The procedure for dealing with complaints against the police should be changed (paragraph 133).
(34) The chief officer of police should be made vicariously liable for wrongful acts committed by members of the force (paragraph 133).
(35) Activities in the field of community and youth relations should be stepped up (paragraphs 134, 135).
(36) Professional advice should be sought as to the organisation needed to improve public relations (paragraph 137).
(37) A police liaison committee should be set up in Londonderry (paragraph 139).
(38) The closure of certain small stations in difficult urban areas and in some rural areas should be reconsidered (paragraph 140).
(39) The colour of the uniform should be changed to blue (paragraph 141).
(40) Sergeants and constables throughout the force should wear numbers on their uniforms, as is already the practice in Belfast and Londonderry (paragraph 141).
(41) The name of the force should not be changed (paragraph 141).
(42) The Scottish system of independent public prosecutors should be adopted (paragraph 142).
(43) There should be closer co-operation between the R.U.C. and the Home Office Police Research and Development Branch (paragraph 149).
(44) Arrangements should be made for interchanges of personnel between the R.U.C. and forces on the mainland (paragraph 150).
(45) Members of the R.U.C. should be encouraged to apply for posts with mainland forces, and vice versa (paragraph 150).
(46) The Central Representative Body should be reorganised and associated with the representative organisations in Great Britain, so that members of the force can have the same right to be consulted about their pay, etc., as members of police forces in Great Britain (paragraph 150).
(47) A locally recruited part-time force, under the control of
the G.O.C., Northern Ireland, should be raised as soon as possible
for such duties as may be laid upon it. The force, together with
the police volunteer reserve, should replace the Ulster Special
Constabulary (paragraph 171).
(a) The power of the Minister of Home Affairs to prohibit processions and meetings should be exercised in consultation with the chief officer of police and the Police Authority (paragraph 91).
(b) The Crime Branches should be examined (paragraph 98).
(c) Training in crowd control should be given throughout the force (paragraph 100).
(d) The control rooms at Belfast and Londonderry should be adapted or replaced (paragraph 115).
(e) The adoption of the system of qualification for promotion
used in England and Wales should be considered (paragraph 131).
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