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Policing Board Launches Human Rights Report at Magee

Human rights studies are a vital aspect of the University of Ulster’s teaching and research at Magee, according to the Provost, Professor Deirdre Heenan

She was speaking at the launch of thePolicing Board of Northern Ireland’s 7thHuman Rights Annual Report, which was held at the campus.

It was the first time that the Board had launched the report, on Friday (Feb 3), at a venue outside Belfast and the historic venue was full to capacity with representatives of voluntary organisations, community and lobby groups, political parties, teenage students and human rights researchers.

PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggot was among a panel, which was chaired by Conall McDevitt MLA, Chair of the Policing Board’s Human Rights and Professional Standards (HRPS) Committee, who answered questions from the floor during the lively and challenging two-hour event, which was streamed live online.

The other panellists were Ryan Feeney, Board Member and Vice Chair of the HRPS Committee; Debbie Watters, Board Member and Member of the HRPS Committee; Alyson Kilpatrick, the Board’s Human Rights Advisor;Linda Watson, local community representative; Noel McCartney, local community representative.

Professor Heenan pointed to the optimism behind 2013 UK City of Culture and the successful bid for the All-Ireland Fleadh as examples of what could be achieved by “collective endeavour”.

She said there was “a tremendous sense of collective responsibility” for making a success of UK City of Culture 2013 andthatthe city’s strong partnerships had been graphically illustrated when a delegation of civic leaders, including the local PSNI commander Stephen Martin, travelled to Dublin to lobby for the fleadh“We are determined to facilitate and encourage economic growth, development,regeneration and prosperity, and ensure that we are recognised as a world-class destination.”

Professor Heenan added:“Human rights studies and research are a long-standing and vital part of our wide-ranging provision and academic activity at Magee and so it is particularly fitting that the Policing Board’s Human Rights Annual Report is being launched here.

“INCORE (the International Institute for Conflict Research) and the Transitional Justice Institute, both of which are in the Faculty of Social Sciences, teach innovative human rights programmes and conduct research into human rights practice and law which is valued by scholars around the world.

“Magee is a thriving campus, with a student population of around 4,000, and rising, and we are delighted to host this launch. Events such as this strengthen our links with the wider community, and it is fantastic to see more and more organisations utilising the first-class facilities here for public functions.”

Board Chair Brian Rea said the Board was delighted to launch the Report at Magee.“It is an opportunity not only to highlight the findings of the report but also to encourage debate on policing and human rights issues amongst the panel, audience and online users.

“This latest report, highlighting both good police practice and areas in which practice could be improved, has made 16 recommendations. Since 2005 the PSNI has implemented 176 recommendations, contained within Human Rights Annual Reports, and has also accepted 43 recommendations made in the 2 Thematic Reviews published by the Board to date. This shows a very positive record in terms of PSNI commitment to human rights compliance.”

Conall McDevitt, highlighting some of the findings of the Report, said:

“A key concern for the HRPS Committee is paramilitary style assaults and shootings and the low clearance rate (4%) of this serious crime. Figures from the report show that between 1 April 2010 and 30 September 2011 44% of these attacks have been against 16 – 24 year olds. The Board is recommending that the PSNI should consider what further measures are required to protect people from such attacks, and that PSNI should develop a strategy for addressing attacks on children and young people, who are particularly vulnerable. 

In relation to police use of stop, search and question powers, report findings show that in the 3 month period between 1 July 2011 and 30 September 2011, of 7,573 persons stopped, searched and/or questioned by PSNI, more than half of those people were below the age of 25. While it does not follow that the PSNI are using these powers in a discriminatory way against this age group, this information reinforces the need to ensure that all police officers are adequately trained to engage with young people, inspiring confidence and safety.”

Copies of the report are available on the Board’s website at:www.nipolicingboard.org.uk/index/publications/human-rights-publications.htm

For further information, please contact the Northern Ireland Policing Board's Press and Public Relations Office on 028 9040 8565 / 07801738795.