Response to the Patten Commission

09 September 1999

The Pat Finucane Centre welcomes the publication of the report of the Patten Commission. We believe that the report deserves and should receive serious and positive consideration from all sections of the community. We believe that many of the recommendations contained within the report have the capacity, if implemented, to form the basis on which a new police service, acceptable and accountable to the whole community, can be established.

"As a human rights organisation which made a detailed submission to the Commission, we wish to acknowledge the many positive recommendations contained within the report. Like the Commission we believe that the upholding of human rights goes to the very heart of policing and we welcome the several proposals contained within the report concerning human rights and policing in Northern Ireland.

"We fully support their decision to recommend the abolition of the full-time RUC reserve and their recommendation that the proposed programme of changes should been overseen by an international figure. Both these proposals are in line with the proposals that we made to the Commission. We also accept that any new police service needs to develop an ethos and culture which is radically different from the one found in the RUC, if we are to achieve a police service which broadly reflects the community it exists to serve.

"Over the next three months it is vitally important that the British Government receives detailed and considered responses to Patten. The Pat Finucane Centre believes that in some respects the Patten Commission has not gone far enough. In particular we would question the need to have a police service as large as the one proposed by Patten (i.e. 7,500 full-time officers) which is significantly higher than any other police service in Britain or Ireland.

"We are disappointed that Patten did not make a response to the issue of past misdemeanours and crimes committed by serving RUC officers. Whilst recognising that this is a sensitive issue, it must be properly addressed by the British Government if a new police service is to be created which can have the confidence of all the community. It is crucial that those officers who have been involved in gross human rights abuses, including the killing of unarmed people and active collusion with paramilitaries, should be quickly excluded from any new police service."