08 December 2005

PSNI defend raids

Irelandclick.com

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Paul Leighton yesterday defended his organisation's high-profile investigation of the Northern Bank robbery - including last Friday's controversial raid at Casement Park in Co Antrim.

Mr Leighton was speaking at a full meeting of the North's Policing Board after further allegations that a "senior intelligence officer" leaked information about the investigation to BBC journalist Brian Rowan.

Top Antrim GAA official Gerry McClory accused the PSNI of "playing with words" about the circumstances of the Casement Park raid.

Claiming that a "community impact assessment" was conducted during the preparations for the raid, ACC Paul Leighton also alleged that a briefing was given to GAA officials as the raid began.

"As we approach the anniversary, a 24 year-old male has now been charged with robbery," Mr Leighton said.

"His detention period was extended beyond seven days for the first time in Northern Ireland, the first time such powers have been used.

"The use of these powers was a reflection of the seriousness and the complexity of the investigation, and his detention was reviewed by two judges and a high court judge, all confirming the legality of the application.

"As part of that investigation, and linked to the arrest and charge of this person, a search of Casement Park took place. A full community impact assessment was conducted during the planning of the operation.

"In planning the resourcing for the operation, the fewest possible resources were committed commensurate with the task.
Officers of the club were contacted as the search began and part of the briefing they were given included the information and the likely duration of the task," Mr Leighton said.

However Antrim GAA vice-chair Gerry McClory accused the PSNI of "talking codswallop" and "playing with words".

Criticising the PSNI's overall approach to the Casement Park raid, Mr McClory continued, "They didn't consult the GAA about any community impact assessment. There was no briefing given to officials.

"He is playing with words. I am giving you facts. They arrived in force to search Casement Park at seven o'clock in the morning, moving from the side of the road over to the gates at around nine when the groundsman arrived, and then they started searching after that.

"Neither the county chairman, the county secretary, the county treasurer or myself as acting chairman of Casement Park Social Club were given any pre-notice of the raid.

"I got a call from one of the voluntary staff to say the PSNI were there to raid and as I was travelling to Casement I got a call from Chief Inspector Peter Farrar to tell me there was going to be a search.

"While the officer in charge of the search was courteous and provided the basis for the raid, the question remains why they could not have done this differently," Mr McClory said.

"We had nothing to hide and would have had no difficulty co-operating, as we did so earlier in the year when they came to Casement about the same investigation.

"They talk about community impact assessment, but they haven't even bothered to consider the impact this incident could have on attracting community and business sponsors to Casement Park," Mr McClory said.


Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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