21 October 2005

Company reveals police phone tapping concerns

Belfast Telegraph

By David Gordon
21 October 2005

The company that forced an internal PSNI corruption probe today said it feared its phones had been tapped.

The shock claim came as the police service signalled that its investigations into past contracts could be widened.
Northern Ireland Sheet Metal Works last week received a £400,000 settlement from PSNI after a four-year legal battle over a cancelled contract.

Jim Kirkpatrick, head of the firm, today said: "We have very strongly-held suspicions that our telephones were tapped over a long period.

"There was a regular clicking noise when we were on the phone, particularly when we said certain words."

A PSNI spokeswoman said the force did not comment on intelligence matters as a matter of policy.

But security sources said police could not have been involved in any tapping.

"The approval of the Secretary of State is needed for telephone intercepts," one source said.

"There is no way that would happen in a case like this."

Another source said clicking would not be involved in the phone tapping technology used by police.

Mr Kirkpatrick today welcomed a pledge by chief constable Sir Hugh Orde on the extent of the PSNI corruption investigation.

But he challenged the police boss to live up to his words by ordering suspensions of staff members.

"I cannot understand why no one has been suspended," Mr Kirkpatrick said.

Northern Ireland Sheet Metal Works went to the High Court after being stripped of a 2001 order to supply armour plating for police vehicles.

Speaking after the settlement, the judge in the case called for a criminal investigation.

He also said there was evidence that person or persons within the PSNI has deliberately undermined the company through "flimsy" criticism of its provision of the contract.

Sir Hugh yesterday said something had clearly gone wrong with the contract.

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