Patten Report: Human rights and new openess at centre of report

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The following is a precis of the Patten report's major recommendations:

Human rights

THERE SHOULD be a comprehensive programme of action to focus policing on a human-rights based approach. It is a central proposition of this report that the fundamental purpose of policing should be, in the words of the Good Friday Agreement, the protection and vindication of the human rights of all. Upholding human rights and upholding the law should be one and the same thing.

The importance of human rights as the very purpose of policing should be instilled in every officer from the start. We recommend a new oath for all new and existing officers, promising to "uphold fundamental human rights and accord equal respect to all individuals and their traditions and beliefs".

The human-rights dimension should be integrated into every module of police training. A lawyer with specific expertise in the field of human rights should be appointed to the staff of the police legal service.


PAST ARRANGEMENTS have not held the police adequately accountable. There needs to be a culture of openness and transparency in which police officers as a matter of instinct disseminate information about their work. The prevailing instinct at present is defensive, re-active and cautious in response to questions - as we experienced ourselves in relation to some of our own inquiries.

We are in no doubt that the RUC has had several officers within its ranks over the years who have abused their position. It is not satisfactory to suggest, as some people have, that one should somehow accept that every organisation has "bad apples." They should be dealt with.

Policing Board

AN ENTIRELY new Policing Board should be created, with the statutory primary function of holding the Chief Constable and the police service publicly to account. It should set objectives and priorities for policing over a three to five-year period. The first chairman of the Board will be a crucial figure, and should be of high quality and standing in the community.

The Board must command respect and credibility and must have real power and responsibility. A majority elected membership is essential to this objective. It should have 19 members, 10 of whom should be members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, elected on the same basis as the Northern Ireland Executive. (This would provide five Unionist members, three from the SDLP and two from Sinn Fein.) Responsibility for policing should be devolved to the Executive as soon as possible, except for matters of national security.

The Chief Constable should be deemed to have operational responsibility for the exercise of his or her functions. The respective roles of the Northern Ireland Secretary, the Policing Board and the Chief Constable should be clarified in legislation.

The Board should meet in public once a month to receive a report from the Chief Constable. The presumption should be that everything should be available for public scrutiny unless it is in the public interest - not in the police interest - to hold it back.

Partnership Boards

EACH OF the 26 district councils should establish a District Policing Partnership Board with a majority elected membership. The boards should represent the consumer, voice the concerns of citizens and monitor the performance of the police in their districts.

Police ombudsman

THE OMBUDSMAN who is to take up office shortly should be an important institution and should be staffed and resourced accordingly. He should have a dynamic co-operative relationship with both the police and the Policing Board.

Covert policing

THERE SHOULD be a commissioner for covert law enforcement, who would be a senior judicial figure with powers to inspect the police and other agencies to provide comprehensive independent scrutiny.

Community policing

THIS MEANS the police working in partnership with the community and the community thereby participating in its own policing. What we emphatically do not mean by community policing is vigilante groups policing neighbourhoods with baseball bats.

The present policing style of the RUC has been greatly distorted by the security situation, to the frustration of both police and public. As presently organised, the police service is not well geared towards community partnership policing, but rather to a more re-active style of policing.

Policing with the community should be the core function of the police service and the core function of every police station. Members of the policing team should serve at least three years in the same neighbourhood, and they should wear on their uniforms their names and the name of their locality. Where practicable, policing teams should patrol on foot.

Policing in a

peaceful society

IT IS not yet possible to say that Northern Ireland has been transformed into a peaceful society, but despite the continuing menace of paramilitary capability the situation has changed sufficiently to allow changes in the way policing services are delivered.

Police stations should, subject to the security situation, be progressively made less forbidding and more accessible. For example, civilian receptionists could replace police officers. Police cars should continue to be substituted for armoured Land Rovers, while the Army's role should continue to be reduced. The three holding (interrogation) centres should be closed forthwith.

Public order

THE POLICE should have the capacity within their own establishment to deal with public order emergencies. Plastic bullets should continue to be available, though an alternative to them should be urgently sought.


THERE ARE many layers of management in the RUC, with elaborate structures, which mean it is no surprise to find the management style hierarchical and bureaucratic. The frustrations of middle management are evident: one superintendent spent months getting approval to buy a chair and a hand- held tape recorder and another told us he was required to use outside contractors to change light bulbs. We recommend that district commanders be given greatly increased authority, with the number of Assistant Chief Constables reduced from 12 to six.

We recommend a rigorous programme of civilianisation of jobs which do not require police powers, training or experience.

We met many officers who had been disabled as a result of terrorist attacks. We do not believe that these officers have been treated as well as they should have been by the police service or by the welfare services. In the early years of the Troubles, claims were settled for derisory sums of money and the widows of some officers are now living in penury. A substantial fund should be set up to help those injured and their families, and also police widows.

Special Branch

THE BRANCH consists of about 850 officers, about 10 per cent of the regular force strength. Serving and retired police officers were among those who described it to us as "a force within a force". A common observation was that local commanders often knew very little about the activities of the Branch in their areas.

We do not think this is healthy or that the size of the Branch is justified. Its size should be reduced and it and the CID should be placed under the command of a single Assistant Chief Constable. Officers should not spend such long periods, of 15 or 20 years or more, in security work.


WE FOUND virtually no dissent from the view that, if the Good Friday Agreement holds and a more peaceful society results, police numbers should be substantially reduced. The approximate size of the force should be reduced from the present total of 8,500 regulars and 4,200 reservists to 7,500 full-time officers.

This level of policing, at one officer per 220 head of population, is high compared with the rest of the UK and is comparable with that of New York. Our model assumed that all retirements from the regulars will be on a voluntary basis, with a normal early- retirement age of 50; that an estimated 80 per cent of regular officers aged 50 and above will take the early-retirement offer; and that around 800 officers under the age of 50 will take a new early-retirement package. The early-retirement package should include a generous lump sum and enhanced pension payments. The full-time Reserve, which has 2,900 members, should be disbanded.


THE RUC is not representative. Only 8 per cent of its officers are Catholic and only 12 per cent are women. Real community policing is impossible if the composition of the police service bears little relationship to the composition of the community as a whole.

We recommend a recruitment profile of 50 per cent Protestants and 50 per cent Catholics over a 10-year period, a proportion that reflects the demographic breakdown of people now in their 20s. This would lead to the proportion of Catholic officers more than doubling within four years, and quadrupling within 10 years to around 30 per cent.

The part-time Reserve, which has 1,300 members, but particularly low membership in Catholic areas, should be enlarged with 1,000 extra Catholic members.


THE KEY to making the police service representative lies in community leaders actively encouraging their young people to join. All political party leaders, bishops and priests, schoolteachers and sports authorities, should encourage this. The recruitment process should be contracted out from the police to an agency which should advertise not only in Northern Ireland but in the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland. There should be a high degree of civilian input into recruitment and training.

Membership of organisations such as the Orange Order and the Masons should not be a bar to police membership, but all officers should be obliged to register their interests and associations.

Culture, ethos and symbols

THE RUC has remained somewhat militaristic and hierarchical. A new beginning cannot be achieved unless the Catholic and nationalist community is able to identify with the name and symbols of the police service. It should therefore be renamed the Northern Ireland Police Service, with a new badge and symbols entirely free from any association with the British or Irish states.

The colour of the uniform should remain, though a new and more practical style should be adopted. The Union flag should no longer be flown from police buildings. The service should ensure the maintenance of a neutral working environment.

Co-operation with

other forces

CO-OPERATION with the Garda Siochana in the Republic is good but should be improved with more formal arrangements, an annual conference and a programme of long-term personnel exchanges. There should be co-operation in training and in joint disaster planning. There should also be greater links with forces in Britain and elsewhere, including the FBI.

Overseeing change

AN EMINENT person from outside these islands should be appointed as an oversight commissioner to supervise the implementation of these recommendations. The government, the police service and the Policing Board should provide the commissioner with objectives, timetables and progress reports.