28 March 2006

'Nationalist police chief' urged


Mr Bradley also predicted that Sinn Fein would take its seats

The next chairman of the NI Policing Board should be a nationalist, the body's outgoing vice chairman has said.

However, Denis Bradley also said he looked forward to the day when that would become a "non-issue".

He also expressed concerns about MI5 taking control of intelligence gathering, fearing it would become "a force within a force".

Mr Bradley also predicted that Sinn Fein would take its seats on the board in the autumn.

He was speaking on Tuesday after the current board's final meeting.

The first public session of the new Policing Board will be held on 3 May.

However, members will meet in private session to elect a new chairman and vice chairman during the first week of April.

Current board chairman Professor Sir Desmond Rea said "there is still work to be done".

Taser stun guns are used by police forces in Britain

"We are entering a new era, and the next Policing Board will be responsible for building on the firm foundations laid and establishing policing on an even wider community basis," he said.

"Sinn Fein have not yet supported policing, but I hope that once the politics are sorted, they will soon join with those who have been committed to the future of policing since day one."

Meanwhile, the board has extended the consultation period over the introduction of Taser guns for the PSNI.

Concern about the proposed use of the Taser "stun gun" had been expressed by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

The board had been expected to make a decision on the introduction of the Taser on Tuesday.

It had been proposed that Tasers be made available on a limited, pilot basis as a "less lethal alternative to the use of firearms in one-to-one situations".

'Badly advised'

However, Sir Desmond said: "The Policing Board recognises that the debate around the use of Taser, as with all less lethal weaponry, is one of legitimate public interest and that a decision on this matter should not be taken lightly."

He said board members agreed that the PSNI should undertake "an equality screening exercise" on the impact of the introduction of the weapons.

Earlier, Monica McWilliams of the Human Rights Commission said not enough thought had been given to the impact of Tasers on children or those with mental health problems.

Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International said the Policing Board would be badly advised to give them the go-ahead.

"We have to really ask some tough questions before we let those weapons on the streets of Northern Ireland. We think we have enough weapons here already without adding more to the arsenal," he said.

However, Steven Ward, vice president of American-based company Taser International, said they were non-lethal devices.

"It delivers a small amount of electricity that makes a person's muscles contract," he said.

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