Northern Ireland

George Hamilton warns of 'significant strain' on PSNI

Chief Constable George Hamilton
Image caption Chief Constable George Hamilton was speaking at the British-Irish Association Conference

The chief constable has said "a current piecemeal approach to our history" is placing a "significant strain" on the PSNI.

George Hamilton was speaking at the British-Irish Association Conference in Oxford on Saturday.

He said although the PSNI was committed to dealing with the past, he had to balance this with everyday policing.

Mr Hamilton said the strain of this was being felt in operational resources and in terms of public confidence.

He said that he was facing a "rapidly reducing budget" and the level of cuts would place a "substantial impact" on the delivery of services.

The chief constable added if politicians could not reach consensus on how to deal with the past, then he believed more "hands on" support from the British and Irish Governments would "seem appropriate and necessary".

'Lonely position'

"There is no doubt that policing, and indeed the criminal justice system, are being left to 'absorb the shock' of the past," he said.

"In the absence of a more holistic solution, the Police Service of Northern Ireland is left in a lonely position, caught between legal obligations; financial constraints; and public expectation."

Mr Hamilton added financial challenges had been brought into starker focus in recent weeks and the "status quo is now simply not an option".

He addressed delays in the PSNI disclosing material to some of the ongoing legacy inquests.

"It takes significant time and resource to bring a case before the courts," he said.

"There is little understanding of the PSNI's duties in this established legal process.

"Disclosure is an unwieldy and complex exercise, involving the review of large volume of documentation and balancing legal obligations."

Mr Hamilton said as his immediate obligations had to be with keeping people safe, the police would continue to meet their legal obligations but there would now have to be a change in how they responded to the demands of the past.

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