Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland

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The Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland was established in 1998 as part of the Belfast Agreement, intended as a major step in the Northern Ireland peace process. Chaired by Conservative politician Chris Patten, it was better known as the Patten Commission. The other members of the Commission were Maurice Hayes, Peter Smith, Kathleen O'Toole, Gerald W. Lynch, Sir John Smith, Lucy Woods and Professor Clifford Shearing. The Secretary to the Commission was Bob Peirce, who drafted the report.

Terms of Reference[edit]

Under the terms of reference defined in the Belfast Agreement, the Commission was to inquire into policing in Northern Ireland, consult widely, and make proposals for future policing structures and arrangements, including the police force composition, recruitment, training, culture, ethos and symbols.

The aim of the proposals was to create a police service that would be effective, operate in partnership with the community, cooperate with the Garda Síochána and other police forces, and be accountable both to the law and the community which it was to serve.

Report[edit]

On September 9 1999 the Commission produced its report, entitled A New Beginning: Policing in Northern Ireland popularly known as the Patten Report, which contained 175 symbolic and practical recommendations. Key recommendations included:

  • renaming the Royal Ulster Constabulary the Northern Ireland Police Service;
  • a new Policing Board and District Policing Partnership Boards to ensure accountability;
  • creation of a Police Ombudsman and a Complaints Tribunal;
  • removal of most visible symbols of Britishness from the police service;
  • a 50-50 recruitment policy for Catholics and Protestants;
  • a new code of ethics and oath of office, including a strong emphasis on human rights;
  • an emphasis on community policing and normalisation;
  • proposals for training, community liaison, cooperation with other police services, and recruitment from outside Northern Ireland; and
  • repeal by the Gaelic Athletic Association of its rule 21, which prohibited members of the police or Army in Northern Ireland from being members of the Association.

Effect[edit]

The recommendations contained in the report have been partly implemented by the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 and the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2003. Sinn Féin, which represents a quarter of Northern Ireland's voters, refused to endorse the new force until the Patten recommendations had been implemented in full, however voted to support the force in 2007 and now take their seats on the Northern Ireland Policing Board. The recommendation to change the RUC name to Northern Ireland Police Service was changed to Police Service of Northern Ireland instead. A Gaelic Athletic Association convention repealed Rule 21 (a ban on members of the British army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary from playing Gaelic games), although almost all of the votes to do so came from the Republic (there were exceptions Kerry, Cavan and Monaghan voted against repealing the rule) . Of the six associations in Northern Ireland, only County Down voted to repeal it.

External links[edit]