I have today published the Government’s response to the public consultation on the “Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000—Review of Temporary Recruitment Provisions”. The response document has been placed in the Library of this House. The temporary provisions came into force in 2001 and the previous Administration renewed them by order on 29 March 2010 for a period of one year.
A total of 162 responses were received to the consultation. Of these 152 were in favour of letting the provisions lapse on 28 March 2011, six were against this proposal and three did not express a definite view. One respondent was in favour of letting the provisions lapse for PSNI officer recruitment, but called for the provisions to be retained for support staff.
The Government have considered the responses to the consultation. They have noted the considerable progress made towards securing a police service that is more fully reflective of the community in Northern Ireland. This follows the recommendation in the Patten report that in order to make a police service representative, community leaders should take steps to remove all discouragement and make it a priority to encourage members of their communities to apply to join the police service.
At the time of the Patten report only 8.3% of Royal Ulster Constabulary officers were from a Catholic community background. Today 29.76% of officers are from a Catholic community background, the top end of the critical mass identified by Patten.
Against this background and given that policing in Northern Ireland is now, rightly, devolved and under local control, the Government consider that the continued use of the temporary provisions can no longer be justified and they will therefore lapse on 28 March 2011. Patten himself said the use of special measures should be revisited after 10 years.
The Government believe that maintaining a police service which is reflective of the society it polices is as important as ever. This view is shared by the Department of Justice and the PSNI themselves and they will continue to work to this end in the years ahead. We want to see this progress continue and for Catholic representation in the PSNI to grow further over time. Patten’s vision of a fair, impartial and effective police service does not end with the provisions.
PSNI recruitment issues are regularly monitored by the policing board which will continue to hold the PSNI to account. The PSNI shared future strategy agreed by the board demonstrates the PSNI’s continuing commitment to promoting equality and diversity, achieving good relations and building trust with the community.