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Report of The Advisory Committee on Police in Northern Ireland

[Key_Events] [Key_Issues] [Conflict_Background]

Text: Baron Hunt ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna

image Report of the Advisory Committee
on Police in Northern Ireland

Chairman: Baron Hunt, C.B.E., D.S.O.,

Presented to Parliament by Command of His Excellency the Governor of Northern Ireland
October 1969

Published in Belfast by,

Cmd. 535

SBN 337 10535 9

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CHAPTER 1General Considerations about our Mission
CHAPTER 2 The Problems of Order and Internal Security
CHAPTER 3 Description of the Royal Ulster Constabulary
CHAPTER 4 Proposed Changes in the Role and Organisation of the Royal Ulster Constabulary
CHAPTER 5 Proposed Changes in Recruitment, Training and Promotion Procedures
CHAPTER 6Relations with the Public and the Law
CHAPTER 7Association of the Royal Ulster Constabulary with other Police Forces in the United Kingdom
CHAPTER 8 Description of the Ulster Special Constabulary
CHAPTER 9 The Future of the Ulster Special Constabulary
CHAPTER 10 Conclusions and Recommendations
APPENDICESA Deployment of the Royal Ulster Constabulary
B Offences known to Police, Proceedings taken and Results of Proceedings
C Strength of the Ulster Special Constabulary
D Ulster Special Constabulary-Remuneration of Permanent and Full-time Members
E Ulster Special Constabulary-Pay and Conditions of Part-time Members


General Considerations about our Mission

Our Mission

1. On Tuesday, 26th August 1969, we were appointed by the Minister of Home Affairs of the Government of Northern Ireland to 'examine the recruitment, organisation, structure and composition of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Special Constabulary and their respective functions and to recommend as necessary what changes are required to provide for the efficient enforcement of law and order in Northern Ireland.'

2. The importance and urgency of this task was impressed upon us in view of the situation following the disorders earlier in the month. After a visit by the Home Secretary of the Government of the United Kingdom on 7th September the hope was expressed that our report might be available in time for it to be discussed with him early in October, when he is to make a second visit to the Province.

3. Both on account of the speed with which so wide-ranging an enquiry had to be completed and of the nature of the task itself, we decided that our enquiries should be informal and confidential, that we should confine ourselves mainly to contacts and visits within the ambit of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Special Constabulary and that we should seek written evidence and opinion outside the police forces privately, rather than invite submissions from all sources. To have done otherwise would certainly have prolonged our mission far beyond the time-table which we have been set, without adding to the technical information upon which we would have to base many of our recommendations.

4. In the course of our examination we paid visits to the Headquarters of the Police Force at Brooklyn, to those at Belfast and Londonderry and in all the Counties. We visited a number of District Headquarters, sub-districts and police stations, including several stations on the border with the Republic of Ireland. We spent a day at the Training Depot in Enniskillen. During these tours we met and held informal discussions with many members of all ranks in the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Special Constabulary. We received a memorandum from the Central Representative Body and met representatives of its County Consultative Committees. We had meetings with representatives of the District Commandants of the Ulster Special Constabulary and the Retired Police Officers' Association, with two former Inspectors-General and two former Deputy Inspectors-General. We take this opportunity to record our appreciation of the co-operation which we received from the Inspector-General and all ranks in the police.

5. Among our contacts outside the police force were the G.O.C., Northern Ireland, leaders of the Churches, the Lord Chief Justice and the Attorney General, representatives of the Bar Council and the Incorporated Law Society of Northern Ireland, chairmen and secretaries of the local authority associations, Chairmen of County Councils, Resident Magistrates, the Chairman and General Manager of the Londonderry Development Commission, representatives of the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, proprietors and editors of newspapers, representatives of the B.B.C. and Ulster Television, the Vice-Chancellors of both Universities and a number of other private citizens. We were privileged to be received by His Excellency the Governor and to visit the former Governor, Lord Erskine. Had time permitted, we would have wished to consult many others.

6. The magnitude and complexity of the undertaking, necessarily compressed into so short a period, intensive and concentrated though it has been, has compelled us to limit our studies to certain main questions which seemed to call for immediate decisions; but we have noted many other matters relating to the police forces which merit further consideration and which we believe to require changes and improvements. We have been able only to point to these matters, indicate the nature or direction of change and propose the procedure for further enquiry or action.

7. We have been able to bring to bear on the matters falling within our terms of reference a varied background of experience gained in other police forces in the United Kingdom and India, and during military operations elsewhere in aid of the civil power. But we are well aware that, for historical and other reasons, the particular problems in the enforcement of law and order in Northern Ireland have resulted in differences in the functions, organisation and control of the forces here. These differences have en ' joined caution upon us in applying our own experience to the problems in the Province, and we were aware of the danger of drawing conclusions based on 'sand-table' exercises; but we have borne firmly in mind the fact that it is the future which we were invited to consider.

General Considerations

8. It is a truism that the police forces in any country operate within the context and in the climate of the political conditions and stability of that country. Their task of enforcing law and order is inevitably affected by social, economic and other circumstances arising out of these general conditions; it must perforce be more onerous in an unstable situation. We feel it desirable to make this obvious point, in view of the special difficulties under which the police have operated in the past, which may persist in the Province in the future, which are not the making of the police themselves, and which make their task at times both difficult and distasteful.

9. In Particular, we would point to the growing cult of violence in society, the increasing tendency of a minority to flout the law, undermine authority and create anarchy. This trend is not peculiar to Northern Ireland, for its instigators latch on to any pretext wherever they can find one to exploit; to some extent it is a symptom of a general malaise among youth . We have taken carefully into account the need to ensure that changes in the police force are made with a view to enabling it the better to perform its duties, in the light not only of those troubles which have been a particular feature in the history of Northern Ireland, but also of the more recent agitations which are more widespread.

10. However, we are convinced that the police force can and should play a leading part, not only in enforcing law and order, but in helping to create a new climate of respect for the law, a new attitude of friendship between its members and the public, and a sense of obligation among all men of goodwill to co-operate with the police in fulfilling their civic duties in the Province, notwithstanding any wider political aspirations which they may have. Our principal recommendations are framed with a view to enabling both the police and the citizens of Ulster to move towards a better relationship with one another in order to achieve this common need and purpose.

11. Our proposals offer a new image of the Royal Ulster Constabulary as a civil police force, which will be in principle and in normal practice an unarmed force, having the advantage of closer relationships with other police forces in Great Britain. Our recommendations further advocate some measures to make the Royal Ulster Constabulary more accountable to the public, and others which should enable it to develop closer relationships with the community. As regards those tasks of a paramilitary nature which the Royal Ulster Constabulary has shouldered since its inception, we make proposals which would relieve it of this responsibility.

12. In the light of these changes we hope that there will be, in future, many more people in the community, whether they be Catholics, Protestants or of any other faith and denomination, as well as those who hold no religious beliefs, who will now be willing to join in active support of the police in their necessary and difficult job.

13. We have been most concerned by the harm which, during the disturbances in the past twelve months, has been done to the image of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, not only in the Province but in the eyes of the world, resulting in some lowering of morale among members of the force, and loss of public esteem. Allegations against some police officers, albeit mainly in circumstances of severe stress and provocation, at times under attack from that appalling weapon, the petrol bomb, against which they had no defence, are not a matter for comment by ourselves. But we cannot stress too strongly the catastrophe which must befall any society which ceases to respect the rule of law or takes the law into its own hands.

14. We feel bound to deplore the extent to which some press and television coverage of these events has resulted in magnifying, in the minds of readers and viewers, the actual extent of the disorders, in generalising the impression of misconduct by the police and of bad relations between police and public, while sometimes failing correspondingly to illustrate the calm which has prevailed in most parts of Ulster, or the degree of deliberate provocation, the danger and the strain under which the police, frequently and for long periods, tried to do their duty, as well as the fact that the great majority acted not only with courage but with restraint. Such impressions may, as in this instance, do harm to the future maintenance of law and order and the restoration of confidence upon which this so largely rests. We wish to take this opportunity to correct the perspective.

15. We make these observations, not to criticise, but to draw attention to a general matter and its effect on the problem of Northern Ireland. This is the power and the weakness of mass media and modern communications, which rightly focus attention on grave problems, but outside the ambit of those problems, also tend to enlarge and confuse rather than clarify these complex issues in the minds of people the world over, often in an attempt to simplify them. This in turn, has brought pressures to bear on those involved in the problems themselves which may make a solution more difficult. It has happened here.

16. None the less, it is undeniable that important changes are necessary in the police force of the Province and that it is essential to make these quickly. We emphasise the need to make these changes with firm resolve and courage. Some of them will cause breaks to be made with hallowed traditions; others will mean some personal sacrifice and an end to devoted and distinguished service. All the changes will call for a determination to look forward rather than backwards, and to have faith in the future. We believe that nothing less will suffice to make the police acceptable to all but wrongdoers; to help create a better relationship between all sections; to provide a more appropriate system of defending the Province from subversion, as well as for maintaining law and order.

17. We hope and believe that all ranks in the police force will set the example which is inherent in their calling, by co-operating in this difficult task. We feel encouraged by the fact that so many of those whom we met suggested or supported a number of the changes which we now advocate; we think that most of our proposals reflect widely-held views within the force.

18. We also believe that these reforms, while some of them are bound to cause misgivings in some people, will be widely accepted by reasonable men and women in Northern Ireland and we hope that the Government will endorse them accordingly.

19. There is one final point; it is perhaps the most important of all those which we have to make. We believe that the recommendations in this report will call for outstanding qualities of leadership to carry them out. There must be a conviction of the need for the changes and a due sense of urgency. There must also be an ability to appreciate the problems of Northern Ireland and the sensitivities of its people combined with a determination to chart a course towards the future, undeflected by the events of the past.

20. This is a great opportunity in the distinguished history of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to take a big step forward and meet the challenge of these difficult and changing times. We hope and believe that all ranks will seize this opportunity and that the Government of Northern Ireland will provide the essential means to do so.


Conclusions and Recommendations

175. Before bringing together the recommendations and suggestions for changes in the R.U.C. and for the creation of two separate forces to perform those duties at present carried out by the U.S.C. which we consider will still have to be performed, we would like to preface them by setting out what we regard as the most important considerations upon which efficient enforcement of law and order depends.

176. One of the most important of these must be that the control and administration of any police force should be vested in such manner as will ensure that it will not only be, but will be seen to be, impartial in every sense and that it should be accountable to the public for its actions. Furthermore, in the eyes of the public it must be seen to be civilian in nature and to achieve this it is in our opinion essential that individual police officers should perform their duties without carrying firearms other than for a particular purpose, at a particular time and in a particular locality.

177. Another consideration is that the authorised establishment of any police force should be sufficient to enable it to perform its duties effectively ana efficiently. The R.U.C. is, in our view, seriously below effective strength and we regard it as essential that it be brought to full establishment as soon as possible.

178. It is a truism that the morale of a force plays an important part in its general effectiveness and that isolation, even the feeling of isolation, from other forces can have harmful results. Close association with other police forces at all levels is to our mind essential, not only as a means of ensuring that experiences encountered and methods adopted elsewhere can be brought to bear on local problems but also during periods of extreme difficulty of the kind experienced by the R.U.C. in recent months, when the helpful advice and encouragement of fellow police officers in the rest of the United Kingdom would have proved invaluable.

179. We have therefore made a number of recommendations which are designed to bring the R.U.C. into full partnership with their colleagues in Great Britain without in any way shifting the responsibility for law and order in the Province from the Government of Northern Ireland.

180. But close comradeship with other forces is not enough. Public confidence must also be established if morale is to be maintained at a sufficiently high level. We believe that implementation of the recommendations and the suggestions which follow should provide the opportunity for closer and more informal contacts to be established between the R.U.C. and the community. We also believe their implementation should make possible a high degree of co-operation between police and public in the task of maintaining law and order, each becoming equally identified in a common need.

181. We particularly hope that in these new conditions more Roman Catholics will wish to join the ranks of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and will offer themselves for service in the new part-time forces, the setting up of which we also envisage.

182. As regards those tasks of a military character which have hitherto been carried out by the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Special Constabulary and which are concerned with the protection of the Province from armed attacks from within or outside its borders, we consider that in principle and in practice this responsibility should properly rest with Her Majesty's Government at Westminster.



(1) The R.U.C. should be relieved of all duties of a military nature as soon as possible and its contribution to the security of Northern Ireland from subversion should be limited to the gathering of intelligence, the protection of important persons and the enforcement of the relevant laws (paragraph 82).

(2) There should be a Police Authority for Northern Ireland, whose membership should reflect the proportions of different groups in the community (paragraphs 87,88).

(3) The Police Authority should be responsible, subject to the authority of the Minister of Home Affairs, for the establishment and maintenance of an adequate and ef:ficient police force, for the appointment of the chief officer of police and certain senior officers, for buildings, vehicles and clothing (paragraph 89).

(4) The Police Authority should have a particular duty to keep itself informed as to the manner in which complaints against the police are dealt with (paragraph 90).

(5) The chief officer of police should submit an annual report to the Minister of Home Affairs and to the Police Authority (paragraph 92).

(6) The chief officer of police should submit a report on any matter when required to do so by the Minister (paragraph 92).

(7) The Minister of Home Affairs may call upon the Police Authority to require a chief officer to retire in the interests of efficiency, subject to certain safeguards (paragraph 92).

(8) The R.U.C. should be subject to inspection by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (paragraph 93).

(9) A Police Advisory Board should be established for consultation between the Minister, the Police Authority, and all ranks of the force (paragraph 94).

(10) The need to retain some police stations in border areas should be reviewed (paragraph 96).

(11) The rank structure should be reviewed (paragraph 97).

(12) The maximum term of duty in the Reserve Force should be three years (paragraph 100).

(13) When the Reserve Force has to be deployed for crowd control, overtime should be payable where appropriate to all ranks (paragraph 100).

(14) The Reserve Force should be renamed (paragraph 100).

(15) A civilian welfare officer should be appointed to the R.U.C. (paragraph 101).

(16) The present policy for the general issue and carrying of firearms should be phased out as soon as possible (paragraph 102).

(17) Certain weapons should be no longer part of the equipment of the R.U.C. (paragraph 102).

(18) The effective strength of the force should be increased as a first priority (paragraph 104).

(19) The establishment of women police should be reviewed (paragraph 105).

(20) A volunteer reserve police force should be set up (paragraph 109).

(21) The establishment of a Cadet Corps should be considered (paragraph 111).

(22) There should be O. & M. studies of the administrative process so as to reduce the time spent by members of the force on duties which could be done by civilians, or where modern equipment would help (paragraph 112).

(23) The extent to which the police are engaged on extraneous duties or by private employers should be examined (paragraph 113).

(24) Armoured cars should cease to be part of the equipment of the R.U.C. (paragraph 114).

(25) The building programme should be reviewed (paragraph 117).

(26) The practice of reserving a specific proportion of vacancies in the force for Roman Catholics should be discontinued (paragraph 124).

(27) Vigorous efforts should be made to increase the number of Roman Catholic entrants into the force (paragraph 124).

(28) The establishment of a central recruiting office at Police Headquarters, with a branch at Londonderry, and supported by nominated officers at County Headquarters and mobile touring teams, should be considered (paragraph 126).

(29) Simplified application forms should be available at all police stations; in particular, applicants should not be required to disclose their religion on their initial applications (paragraph 126).

(30) The programme of talks to sixth-formers should be extended and use should be made of other publicity media (paragraph 126).

(31) The possibility of acquiring accommodation for training in Great Britain should be examined (paragraph 128).

(32) The Home Office and the Scottish Home and Health Department should be asked to consider sympathetically any applications for places on courses of higher training (paragraph 130).

(33) The procedure for dealing with complaints against the police should be changed (paragraph 133).

(34) The chief officer of police should be made vicariously liable for wrongful acts committed by members of the force (paragraph 133).

(35) Activities in the field of community and youth relations should be stepped up (paragraphs 134, 135).

(36) Professional advice should be sought as to the organisation needed to improve public relations (paragraph 137).

(37) A police liaison committee should be set up in Londonderry (paragraph 139).

(38) The closure of certain small stations in difficult urban areas and in some rural areas should be reconsidered (paragraph 140).

(39) The colour of the uniform should be changed to blue (paragraph 141).

(40) Sergeants and constables throughout the force should wear numbers on their uniforms, as is already the practice in Belfast and Londonderry (paragraph 141).

(41) The name of the force should not be changed (paragraph 141).

(42) The Scottish system of independent public prosecutors should be adopted (paragraph 142).

(43) There should be closer co-operation between the R.U.C. and the Home Office Police Research and Development Branch (paragraph 149).

(44) Arrangements should be made for interchanges of personnel between the R.U.C. and forces on the mainland (paragraph 150).

(45) Members of the R.U.C. should be encouraged to apply for posts with mainland forces, and vice versa (paragraph 150).

(46) The Central Representative Body should be reorganised and associated with the representative organisations in Great Britain, so that members of the force can have the same right to be consulted about their pay, etc., as members of police forces in Great Britain (paragraph 150).

(47) A locally recruited part-time force, under the control of the G.O.C., Northern Ireland, should be raised as soon as possible for such duties as may be laid upon it. The force, together with the police volunteer reserve, should replace the Ulster Special Constabulary (paragraph 171).



(a) The power of the Minister of Home Affairs to prohibit processions and meetings should be exercised in consultation with the chief officer of police and the Police Authority (paragraph 91).

(b) The Crime Branches should be examined (paragraph 98).

(c) Training in crowd control should be given throughout the force (paragraph 100).

(d) The control rooms at Belfast and Londonderry should be adapted or replaced (paragraph 115).

(e) The adoption of the system of qualification for promotion used in England and Wales should be considered (paragraph 131).

A. P. D. Westhead, SecretaryROBERT MARK
3rd October 1969.JAMES ROBERTSON
Ballygally, Co. Antrim.

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