Plastic bullet statistics raise serious concerns
PFC | 01 March 2002
The Derry based Pat Finucane Centre has called on the Policing Board to explain why the PSNI now has 69,148 plastic bullets in its arsenal, twice as many as have been fired in the last twenty years. The statistics also reveal that 122,320 plastic bullets have been purchased since publication of the Patten report. The PFC statement comes following the release of new statistics in a parliamentary reply. The same statistics reveal that the RUC purchased almost 368,000 plastic bullets between 1995 and 2000. In the same period some 11,000 were fired according to Hansard. According to the centre this leaves a surplus of almost 357,000 at an average unit cost of just under £7 per bullet. This represents an overspend of almost two and a half million pounds.
"In the year 2000 the RUC claim that 22 were fired yet 76,320 were purchased. The previous year 111 were fired so they can hardly argue that stocks were low. In fact in 1999 50,400 were purchased. Even allowing for training purposes or the reported 'short shelf life' of these weapons these figures simply don't add up. The Hansard reply tells us that the PSNI currently holds a stock of 69,148 of which 7,200 are for training purposes. If the Policing Board is serious about creating confidence in new policing structures then a ban on plastic bullets should be the immediate priority."
"At a time when the Board should be urging a non-lethal alternative to these child killers the PSNI is stockpiling enough plastic bullets for decades to come. The Board ultimately carries the responsibilty for this.The nature of the relationship between the RUC/PSNI and the firm which supplies these weapons should be the focus of an financial audit."
The statistics also reveal that 122,320 plastic bullets have been purchased since publication of the Patten report which called for urgent research into alternatives to this lethal weapon. One of the last acts of the now defunct Police Authority in November 2001 was to purchase a further 50,000 plastic bullets to deflect, in advance, criticism from the new Police Board. In June 2001 a new, more lethal version was introduced despite a scientific report which admitted that the newer version could become 'embedded' in the skull if fired head-on.
See full Hansard replies below (Hansard is the offical record of the british House of Commons Debates)
Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, pursuant to his answer of 9 January 2002, Official Report, column 878W, how many plastic baton rounds are held for training and potential use by the PSNI. 
Jane Kennedy: The Chief Constable has advised me that the current stock of plastic baton rounds is 69,148 of which 7,200 are currently held by PSNI Firearms Training.
Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many (a) rubber and (b) plastic bullets have been used since their introduction; how many have been purchased in each year and at what cost; and how many have been purchased since publication of the Patten report and at what cost. 
Jane Kennedy: The tables give details of the number of baton rounds used by the police, since separate police recording began in 1981.
Police use of baton rounds
2001 (21 November)
The Chief Constable has informed me that details of the costs in relation to the purchase of baton rounds, and the number purchased prior to 1995, are not readily available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. The following table gives details of the number of baton rounds purchased by the Royal Ulster Constabulary each year from 1995:
Baton rounds purchased by police
Since publication of the Patten Report the Royal Ulster Constabulary has purchased 122,320 baton rounds, and to date the Police Service of Northern Ireland has not purchased any baton rounds.
9 Jan 2002 : Column: 879W
Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his answer of 19 November 2001, Official Report, column 92W, on baton rounds, how many plastic baton rounds have been procured in each year since 1981 by each of the 36 police forces in England and Wales and three non-Home Office forces; and what the annual cost of such procurement for each force was. 
Mr. Denham: I have accepted the advice of the Association of Chief Police Officers that the disclosure of this information, on an individual force basis, would be prejudicial to operational effectiveness.
23,090 baton rounds were purchased by Home Office and non-Home Office forces in 2000, at a total cost of £157,474; and 25,500 in 2001 at a total cost of £173,910. Information for previous years is not readily available.
Police: Baton Guns
Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:
What arrangements have been made for the issue of less-than-lethal ammunition to the police service in England and Wales; and what is the availability of such ammunition at present. [HL1997]
Lord Rooker: The only less lethal option which requires ammunition is the baton gun. Currently 36 police forces in England and Wales have a baton gun capability and a further three non-Home Department forces are similarly equipped. This figure will increase to 45 forces by April 2002 when the manufacturer has supplied further baton guns.