14 February 2006

NI: Half police complaints from Protestants

Irish Examiner

14/02/2006 - 7:13:49 AM

Almost half of complaints lodged with Northern Ireland’s Police Ombudsman over the past five years came from the Protestant community, figures revealed today.

According to research released by Nuala O’Loan’s office, 49% of complainants since the team began its work came from a Protestant background, 38% were Catholics and the remainder either came from another religious background or had none.

Over 14,000 people have complained to the Ombudsman’s team about Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) actions since the office opened in November 2000.

More than 4,000 provided details of their background.

The figures revealed that out of 482 people who used the office from 2004, 41% stated no support for a political party.

Out of those that did, 26% supported the Democratic Unionists, 11% the nationalist SDLP, 8% the Ulster Unionists, 7% Sinn Féin, 3% the Alliance Party and 4% other parties.

DUP Policing Board member Sammy Wilson said the findings bore out other surveys which had shown greater dissatisfaction within the Protestant community with the PSNI.

“This bears out what other surveys have indicated,” the East Antrim MP said.

“There has been a big loss in confidence in the police among the Protestant community.

“This is partly due to anger about the different ways public order situations have been policed.

“If you look at the way disturbances in the Whiterock and Ardoyne areas (of Belfast) were policed last year, it strikes you that it took 40 minutes to fire baton rounds during republican riots in the Ardoyne while it took five minutes before they were fired at loyalists in the Whiterock.

“The dissatisfaction can also be attributed to the feeling in unionist areas that less attention is being paid to ordinary crime by the police and also frustration that police appear to be targeting driving offences more heavily in unionist areas.”

“One of the interesting things is that that frustration is spilling over into complaints by Protestants to Nuala O’Loan’s office.”

Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan said the figures were broadly reflective of the community in Northern Ireland.

“The figures for people from the Protestant community have remained fairly steady over the years, while there was a slight drop in the number of Catholics using the system,” she said.

“What may be of particular interest, however, is the fact that the proportion of people who said they did not follow any religious belief has risen from less than one per cent to nine per cent.”

The figures also revealed that more women are making complaints to the Ombudsman, with 24% of all complaints coming from females in 2004,compared to 20% in 2001.

Less than one per cent of people making complaints said they were gay.

Over a quarter (28%) of complaints since the office opened came from people who said they had a disability.

While 97% of complaints came from whites, 0.5% of people who contacted the office were from a traveller community background.

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