Soft Irish border would see at least 300 officers redeployed – Police Federation

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said work by experts is ongoing to help build a case for extra numbers.

Mark Lindsay
Mark Lindsay

At least 300 officers would need to be redeployed to effectively police a soft Irish border, the Police Federation for Northern Ireland said.

All sides in the Brexit negotiations are keen to avoid a return to the heavily-militarised checkpoints of the past. The frontier is one of the most vexed issues facing the EU and UK talks teams.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable George Hamilton is drawing up a professional business case for an uplift in numbers to present to Government but is unwilling to put a figure to it yet.

Federation chairman Mark Lindsay said: “In effectively policing a soft border, there is the requirement for at least 300 officers to be redeployed.

“Quite simply, these are officers we do not have at present.”

Mr Hamilton said analytical work by experts was continuing to help the force build a business case but noted significant uplifts in staffing numbers in partner organisations HMRC and Border Force.

Mr Lindsay added: “Additional real estate will need to be retained and we have already seen the sale of Warrenpoint PSNI station halted.

“I would anticipate that stations previously earmarked for closure will now need to be retained.

“In order to protect officers, there is an expectation that additional armoured vehicles will be required. Not inexpensive on their own.”

He said when the currently shrunken force, in line with peacetime requirements recommended by an independent report, had 13,500 officers, supported by 26,000 soldiers, it proved a daily challenge to police the Troubles border.

“So, if we were stretched in the 70s, 80s and 90s, is it not fair to say that we will be well and truly incapable of performing the task with officer numbers of 6,621 or a sixth of what we had then?

“There is a time to get real around all of this, and that time is now.”

He said he anticipates considerable extra legal costs will be required in extradition cases and called for adequate funding.

“We don’t possess the numbers, the security apparatus or specialist resources for increased counter-terrorist, search and support duties along the border.”

The chief constable said if there was an increased footprint for HMRC, Border Force and the Environment Agency to deal with compliance issues then the nature of the operating environment would require deployment of officers to ensure the safety of officials.

“I am pretty sure it will require an uplift and there will be a strong evidence base for that.”

He added: “I am building the evidence base to make it a credible and professional business case.”

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News