Ulster Unionist MLA Ross Hussey has rejected a call by the SDLP’s Policing Spokesman Conal McDevitt that plastic bullets “cannot be justified in any circumstances”.
West Tyrone MLA Mr Hussey, who represents the Ulster Unionist Party on the Policing Board, said;
“First of all I would like to clarify the term ‘plastic bullets’. The PSNI no longer uses plastic bullets. They were replaced years ago by baton rounds, which in turn have been replaced by AEPs.
The Policing Board Annual Human Rights Report (2010) states that ‘AEP is a less lethal technology which is subject to the same test as firearms before it can be used (i.e. it may only be used lawfully if it is absolutely necessary to do so to reduce a serious risk of loss of life or serious injury).’
The unfortunate fact is that the Police in Northern Ireland regularly have to face a range of public order situations in which they come under sustained and serious attack. Our Police also face a continuing terrorist threat. It is therefore quite understandable that a range of methods and tactics should be available for deployment in Northern Ireland which may not be considered in other parts of the United Kingdom.
The human rights of Police Officers needs to be respected and the Chief Constable has a duty of care to his officers as regards their safety.
The fact remains, if individuals did not choose to create and participate in riot situations, to make and throw petrol bombs and masonry, at the Police, then the Police Service of Northern Ireland would not need to consider to deploying AEPs.
I believe Conal McDevitt would do better to focus on preventing potential rioters from rioting rather than seeking to deprive the Police of weapons and tactics to defend themselves against attacks.”