Northern Ireland

Republican website wanting PSNI pictures is shut down

A republican Facebook site criticised for putting police officers' safety at risk has been shut down.

Crown Forces Watch had called for people to post pictures of PSNI officers and details of security operations across Northern Ireland.

The chairman of the Policing Federation said publishing pictures was an attempt to "target police officers for murder".

The PSNI said they are aware of the site and are looking into the issue.

The Facebook page closed on Thursday morning with the administrator saying "this group was to report harassment only, not to endanger life as has been reported".

The site appeared to be set up by republicans living in Tyrone and Londonderry, but was encouraging people from further afield to submit pictures.

'Serious matter'

Police Federation Chairman Terry Spence said he was worried about the potential impact of the website gathering information about police activity.

"This is a very serious matter and I have been in touch with the chief constable's office this morning," he said.

"I have explained our great concern and asked him to immediately close down the Facebook page and to take immediate action against those who set it up.

Image caption Terry Spence had called for the immediate closure of the site

"Clearly this is an attempt to gather information which is likely to be of use to terrorists which I am in no doubt will be used in attempts to target police officers for murder."

He also warned people against submitting material to the Facebook page.

"On the basis of that this is a very serious matter, I would say to people out there who have been urged by the administrators of this website to gather more photographs and information about police operations to desist from that activity," said Mr Spence.

"It is very clearly a very serious criminal offence to gather information which is likely to be of use to terrorists."

'Disturbed'

Policing Board member Ross Hussey, a former police officer, has also been critical of the Facebook page, saying he was "very disturbed by it".

"I have seen the site. Clearly someone with a warped sense of what they see as responsibility has set it up," said the UUP MLA.

"The PSNI is probably the most regulated police service in the world. We have the Police Ombudsman's office, we have the Policing Board, we have many ways in which the police can be brought to account.

"But to do this sort of operation you are bringing yourself into disrepute and you could be unwittingly providing information to terrorists."

The DUP's representatives on the Policing Board, Robin Newton, Ian McCrea, Jonathan Craig and Adrian McQuillan released a joint statement condemning the page.

"Supplying information which may be of use to terrorists is a criminal offence. It will be important to see if there is any scope for prosecutions to flow from this development," the statement said.

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