Northern Ireland

NI Paper Review: £1.8m 'spent on criminal intelligence'

Person on phone
Image caption The figures have attracted criticism from SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan

The Belfast Telegraph has reported that Northern Ireland police paid informers £1.8m in the past five years.

Following a Freedom of Information request, the paper reports the cost of criminal intelligence has risen by 70% in the past decade.

Northern Ireland's bill is among the 45 UK police forces' highest, it reports.

In February, the BBC revealed that the PSNI was second only to London's Metropolitan Police for spending on informers in the period 2011- 2016.

SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan criticised the expenditure as "shocking and unwarranted".

"No community is so impenetrable that thousands of pounds should be spent on hiring informants," he said.

The PSNI statement to the paper said informants played "a vital role in assisting police".

It said relationships between the police and informants were "built on trust and the expectation of complete confidentiality".

"The PSNI would never disclose information which could compromise our tactics," it added.

Mr McCrossan said there was "little accountability" about the money spent, how many individuals were paid and how much they had received.

He said he would seek answers from the PSNI chief constable.

The Belfast Telegraph also looks at a much larger bill, that of money spent re-homing victims of intimidation.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Detail found that there had been almost 2,000 incidents of such intimidation in the past five years

The paper reports on figures obtained by The Detail.

It says a breakdown of the figures suggests the majority of incidents involved loyalist paramilitaries.

The Detail also found that despite almost 2,000 reported incidents of intimidation in the past five years, only 32 convictions had been secured.

Elsewhere, the Irish News looks at one such incident of sectarian intimidation, graffiti daubed in the village of Clough, County Down, for at least five days.

Image copyright PATRICK CORRIGAN
Image caption The sectarian sign has been in place for at least five days

The police confirmed the graffiti, baring a sectarian slogan, was reported to them last Wednesday.

Amnesty International's Northern Ireland programme director, Patrick Corrigan, said it was still on display on Monday night.

'Appalling'

Mr Corrigan said the police response was "disappointing".

"If the authorities can't take action to remove a sign, how are people supposed to feel safe?" he asked.

Also in the Irish News is further vandalism, this time of a war memorial in west Belfast.

Image copyright PACEMAKER
Image caption SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said the damage was 'appalling' and 'inexcusable'

The attack was carried out on Sunday night at The Cross of Sacrifice at Milltown Cemetery.

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said the damage was "appalling" and "inexcusable".

Further vandalism is reported in the News Letter.

An RNLI beach lifeguard unit in Portstewart, County Londonderry, has been "completely covered" with graffiti.

'Worst damage'

It is thought to have happened on Sunday night.

RNLI lifeguard supervisor, Karl O'Neill said: "This is the worst damage I have ever seen to RNLI property and it is so disheartening to come across.

"It was a busy summer season for our lifeguards, who worked hard to keep people safe.

"This shows a complete disregard for the lifesaving work that we do and also for the fact that the RNLI is a charity which relies on generous donations from the public."

The News Letter reports that it will cost about £500 to clean up the graffiti.

Also in the News Letter, a former solider charged in connection with the death of a man with learning disabilities has launched a High Court challenge against facing trial without a jury.

Image caption Lawyers for Dennis Hutchings claim the decision to hear his case without a jury was wrong

Dennis Hutchings, from Cornwall, will stand trial in Belfast over the death of John Pat Cunningham in 1974.

Mr Cunningham, 27, had learning difficulties, and was shot in the back as he ran away from an Army patrol.

Lawyers for Mr Hutchings say that Northern Ireland's director of public prosecutions wrongly decided that the criminal case should be heard by a judge sitting alone.