11 December 2005

Cop's legal bid to have PSNI's 'Sinn Fein/IRA uniform changed

Sunday Life

Police farce

by Stephen Breen
11 December 2005

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THIS is the Ulster cop who faces a whopping £10,000 legal bill if he loses his case to have police dump their GREEN, WHITE and GOLD uniform!

In an extraordinary hearing before an Industrial Tribunal in Belfast last week, Constable Philip Crawford accused Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde of "political and religious" discrimination over the colour of the police uniform.

Crawford - a cop since 1983 - believes the police-issue green pullover, white shirt and gold badge is representative of "Sinn Fein and the IRA".

But PSNI barrister Neasa Murnaghan told the tribunal that Crawford's case was "patently misconceived".

Crawford - who is representing himself - made his first complaint in April 2002 after the new police uniform was introduced.

The tribunal's ruling is expected early in the New Year. If Crawford loses his case, he has been told by the tribunal's chairman, Duncan Buchanan, that he will have to pay the legal costs.

Although police bosses took a decision to introduce a gold insignia, the colour was changed to silver after the Policing Board introduced the PSNI's new crest.

But Crawford went ahead with his case because a number of the jumpers with the gold insignia were - and remain - in circulation.

The case finally went ahead last week following a number delays.

Crawford told the hearing: "I am of the Protestant faith and from a unionist background, but that does not mean I want a red, white and blue uniform.

"I have carried several murdered colleagues to their graves, watched pictures of the Queen being taken down and the name of the RUC being changed.

"But I was angry and frustrated when I saw this uniform. I think the colour-scheme is representative of Sinn Fein and the IRA and it causes offence and injury to my feelings when I see it being worn.

"The whole force was not surveyed and there was no question on the questionnaires sent out on the new uniforms about the colour combination.

"I think the colours on the uniforms should be amended because they have caused offence to me and others. The Catholic officers have no difficulty complying with the requirement."

But Ms Murnaghan told the tribunal: "The claimant has failed to demonstrate how the colour co-ordination could amount to better treatment for other members of the force.

"The claimant has spectacularly failed to prove that there was some sinister motivation to appease a certain section of the community with the colour combination.

"The colours green, white and gold are also not used on any election literature by Sinn Fein or the Irish government. His claim is fundamentally wrong."

And she added: "The claimant's objection to the colour co-ordination is neither reasonable or justifiable.

"The claim is so patently misconceived that there must be an order of costs made in favour of the respondent (PSNI).

"The manner in which witnesses were also cross-examined on matters which did not assist the tribunal only prolonged it."

The tribunal also heard evidence from Assets Recovery Agency boss Alan McQuillan, who helped oversee the introduction of the new uniform during his time as Assistant Chief Constable.

Mr McQuillan told the tribunal: "A series of police roadshows about the new police uniform were undertaken and there were no objections.

"And of the 3,000 officers who responded to a survey which was sent to 12,000 officers, only 40 officers raised concerns about the uniform.

"The uniform was just an issue of aesthetics and wasn't seen as controversial. The colour scheme had been for use in the RUC for years."

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