Former top PSNI officer: Decriminalising paramilitaries idea is not a solution to the problem

A former head of the PSNI Organised Crime Branch has slammed suggestions from the government’s paramilitary watchdog that a viable way to deal with paramilitary groups could be to decriminalise them.

Friday, 27th August 2021, 10:01 am
Updated Friday, 27th August 2021, 10:09 am
Paramilitary groups continue to brutalise their own communities.

In November the paramilitary watchdog, the Independent Reporting Commission (IRC), proposed the idea of decriminalising paramilitary groups.

The IRC was set up after the murder of Kevin McGuigan by PIRA members in Belfast in 2015 to report on the status of all paramilitary groups.

In its second report the IRC said that although there are thousands of members of paramilitary organisations, the vast majority are “dormant” and that “the time has come – for the benefit of society - for consideration to be given to a dedicated transition process for paramilitaries themselves to bring paramilitarism to an end”.

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It added: “Deproscription [decriminalisation], and whether or not the deproscribing of a paramilitary organisation is a viable option, also needs to be addressed.”

The IRC raised the issue again in its second report in November, adding that it welcomed a recent commitment by the Stormont justice minister to bring forward a paper to the Executive on some of the issues.

The DUP said deproscription is a matter for the relevant authorities but should never be considered for those organisations which “continue to blight their own communities”.

A Sinn Fein spokesperson responded that there is “no place for any armed groups in our society”.

But Mr McComb, whose career has been spent fighting organised crime, whether paramilitary or otherwise, was adamant that decriminalisation is not the way forward.

Asked to comment on the IRC proposal, he said: “I take the view that the best approach to a criminal problem is a criminal justice solution. A criminal justice problem should be met with a criminal justice solution.”

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