Over 4,000 complaints against RUC
BY FERN LANE
A staggering 4,222 complaints were received against the RUC in the year 1998/99, according to the latest Annual Report of the Six-County Police Authority (PANI). Of these complaints, 1,778 alone were for assault and a further 646 complaints were received for what has been politely termed as ``incivility'' (that is, sectarian abuse) by police officers. Neglect of duty accounted for 508 complaints and ``oppressive conduct and harassment'' a further 498.
Astonishingly, the Police Authority views these figures as something of a success, pointing to a 24% drop from a total of 5,545 complaints received for the year 1997/98, citing the ``improved security situation'' and, oddly, ``better health and safety standards''. 1997/98 however, saw a particularly high level of complaints against the police, whereas the latest results conform more closely to a typical year. Further, in 1998/99 there were 30 proven cases of ``irregularity re evidence'' and of perjury, an increase on the previous year's total of 22. ``Corrupt practices'' were also up, with the RUC admitting to six cases in 1998/99 compared to four the previous year.
The level of compensation to victims of police misconduct has also risen steadily over the past three years, from £1,366,000 in 1996/97, to £1,681,000 in 1997/98 to £2,423,000 for 1998/99. Of this, the greatest amount - some £1,286,000 - was paid in 178 out-of-court settlements, highlighting the difficulty in bringing police officers to court to answer for their misdemeanours. A total £983,000 was awarded in 318 successful claims against the Chief Constable. The number of successful claims, as well as the amount paid out, was also up on previous years. A further £154,000 was paid in compensation for 203 claims for damage to property.
In respect of some of the most controversial issues surrounding the activities of the RUC over the past 18 months, the Authority criticises the UN Special Rapporteur, Dato Param Cumaraswamy, for his report into the harassment and intimidation of solicitors by the RUC. The Authority claims that Mr Cumaraswamy had ``uncovered little or no supporting evidence'' for his statement that solicitors were routinely harassed by the police and often ``identified with the cause of their clients''. The report goes on to congratulate the Chief Constable on his ``bold, imaginative and entirely novel actions'' in conducting the inquiry into the murder of Rosemary Nelson and also exonerates the RUC from any charges of misconduct in the case of Robert Hamill.