McMullan defends right to ‘hold police to account’

SINN Fein MLA Oliver McMullan has denied allegations that he “demoralised” the PSNI when he claimed two weeks ago that Larne police were “powerless” to act against “mob rule”.

Mr McMullan, who stated that he was “simply calling the police to account”, had called for an independent review of local policing and said he would seek a meeting with Chief Constable Matt Baggott. Now he has suggested a meeting of elected representatives with police chiefs and the new Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP).

Last week, Larne PSNI inspector Noel Rogan spoke in defence of local policing, pointing to a “significant” reduction in crime in the past year and the lowest level of reported crime for 10 years.

Former vice-chairman of Larne District Policing Partnership (DPP), Patricia McNeill - who is now a PCSP member - accused Mr McMullan of “demoralising” police officers.

This week, the Assemblyman answered his critics, before adding: “I will not be debating this any further in the paper.”

Mr McMullan said: “I read with interest the comments on my statements recently and I want to begin by saying that not once have I demoralised the police for the work that they are doing, but I have said that there seems to be a lack of effort in certain areas. The police themselves came back with figures on how crime has gone down in Larne, but what those figures don’t identify is the types of crime included in the statistics. They refer to over 300 arrests in the past year, but how many cases have gone to court?

“How many people have been arrested in connection with gun thefts in Larne in recent years? Sinn Fein has been the only party to raise this publicly. We had meetings with the PSNI at Larne station on several occasions and they eventually gave us a list of what had been stolen ... but how many arrests had been made? None.

“How many arrests have there been over the series of recent shootings in Larne? None.

“How many arrests or court convictions have there been of known drug dealers over the last five years? None. And I’m not talking about those unfortunate, vulnerable people who are caught selling drugs for the dealers.”

The Assembly member added: “I have been in the Press praising the police for work that they have done. Sinn Fein have not run the police down, but we do hold the police to account. We have met with them and they have given Sinn Fein credit for some of the work that we have been doing.”

Responding to Mrs McNeill, Mr McMullan said: “I am a past chairman of the Moyle DPP and I know fine well how the system works. If you are saying to me that I can’t criticise or hold the police to account, that is a poor indictment of our police force and I have to say that senior police officers themselves have said that the DPPs were there to hold the police to account.”

The DPP or PCSP was “not some cosy little club” and should be “more vocal about some of the things that are going on,” he added.

Mr McMullan stated: “To those people who see themselves as goalkeepers for the PSNI, I have to tell them: the PSNI don’t need that and I am challenging them to tell the public what they have done to hold the police to account.

“Believe me when I say that the reason that Sinn Fein got elected in East Antrim was because we had shown that we are not afraid to step up to the plate.”

The MLA referred to past meetings attended by Sinn Fein, police, and paramilitary groups in Larne. He said: “I’m not going to name names, but everybody who was there held prominent positions in their organisations.”

Mr McMullan added: “Some very raw issues were discussed at these meetings. There was no holding back, but the elephant in the room was always the fact that most of the people at the meetings didn’t want to go public with what was being discussed and that’s what put Sinn Fein off.”

He concluded: “I think it is time that a meeting was called of all interested groups - the PSNI, Larne Council, the new policing and community safety partnership and elected representatives - because we have to find a way forward.”