Cops spend over £1m on 120,000 plastic bullets in the last two years

The PSNI has bought a staggering 120,000 plastic bullets with the full approval of the Policing Board since the start of 2002, the Andersonstown News has learned.

And the PSNI has also spent upwards of half a million pounds “training” its officers to fire the lethal weapon during the same 30-month period – even though the British government gave a public commitment to withdraw plastic bullets by the end of 2003.

Anti-plastic bullet campaigners last night declared their “outrage and shock” at the news. In protest at the development, campaigners from across the North will this morning gather for a symbolic ‘Money-To-Burn’ event outside the headquarters of the Policing Board.

The shocking facts were disclosed in correspondence with Relatives for Justice (RFJ) written by PSNI Chief Superintendent Sheamus Hamill, Head of Operational Support.

In his letter last month, Chief Supt Hamill accounted for the massive stockpile of plastic bullets by stating that 80,000 “batons rounds” were fired “in a controlled training environment” since the start of 2002. Due to the apparent disposal of plastic bullets after a 15-month use-by date, he said that the current stock of plastic bullets “is 34,732 rounds”.

Speaking to the Andersonstown News last night, Kathleen Duffy – whose 15-year-old son Seamus was killed by an RUC plastic bullet in 1989 – said she was “shocked” by the revelation.

“I thought I could no longer be shocked. I believed that people were being truthful when they said they wanted a new beginning to policing,” she said.

“On March 13 last year NIO Minister Jane Kennedy said, ‘the Government is very aware of the sensitivities surrounding the use of baton rounds. Our objective is that… the baton round would no longer be used after the end of 2003’.

“Not only was this promise broken but the ‘new’ PSNI have, under the watch of the supposedly accountable and open mechanism of the Policing Board, purchased over 120,000 plastic bullets since 2002.

“When one considers that each bullet costs £7, alongside the training and other costs associated with the plastic bullet, this is over £1million in public money.”

Reminding people that no one has ever been held accountable for killing Seamus, Kathleen Duffy expressed her feelings of “betrayal” that the PSNI – with the approval of the Policing Board – continues to buy huge stocks of plastic bullets.

“Like all of the other victims, no-one was held accountable for the killing of my son. The only justice I hoped to see was that in a new era of policing, plastic bullets would no longer be used and no more families would face the heartbreak and pain my family has endured.

“Purchasing these plastic bullets displays an intent and commitment to the use of plastic bullets. Everybody on the Police Board must take responsibility for this,” said Kathleen.

Since plastic bullets were introduced, 17 adults and children have been shot dead and hundreds more injured by the RUC and British Army. There have, of course, been a number of other instances where plastic bullets have maimed or caused premature death – such as the tragic case of 38-year-old Dominic Marron who was shot in the head in 1981, but died last month due to permanent damage caused by the attack. Today’s protest at the Policing Board Headquarters, Waterfront Tower, Clarendon Dock will take place at 12 noon.

Families from across the North will be joined by representatives of the Pat Finucane Centre, Relatives for Justice and the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets, to hand in a letter outlining their outrage to the Policing Board.

They will also highlight their concern over the purchase of the plastic bullets using public funds, by organising the ‘Money-to-Burn’ event.

Journalist:: Jim Maguire

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