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Thursday, December 10, 1998 Published at 21:27 GMT

Patten to review 'shoot to kill' reports

Sinn Fein said the RUC has to be replaced by a new force

The Independent Commission examining the future of policing in Northern Ireland is to view previously unpublished reports into allegations of a security force "shoot to kill policy" and of force involvement in sectarian murders during the province's troubled past.

The former Conservative Northern Ireland Minister and Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten, who is heading the commission, has confirmed that he will see both the Stalker and Stevens reports, which have been kept under lock and key.

"We'll see all the documents we want to see and need to see, and that includes some of the ones that have been very controversial." Mr Patten told Channel 4 News.

Asked whether he would see the Stalker and Stevens reports he added: "If we didn't wish to see those we'd be accused of not doing our job properly."

[ image: Chris Patten: Wants to see all documents]
Chris Patten: Wants to see all documents
The commission, set up under the Good Friday peace accord, is due to report by next summer, with recommendations on the future of policing in Northern Ireland. The commission will also put forward ways of making it more acceptable to the nationalist community, while retaining the support of unionists.

As well as taking written and oral statements from political parties, the churches, business, community and trade union groups, Mr Patten has embarked on a punishing round of public meetings across the province.

The meetings have turned into a form of Truth Commission, with people from both sides of the community telling their stories.

Mr Patten said: "It's an understatement to say it's more exhausting and more demanding and more emotional than almost anything else I've ever done in politics."

People had been expressing their "rage" about the past, he said. "I think it is important that people express their pain - sometimes it is as if they are doing it for the first time in public."

Mr Patten said his work was "an important enterprise" which could not have happened a few months ago.

"It is difficult but it is not impossible," he said.

'Well orchestrated campaign'

Ulster Unionist Party security spokesman Ken Maginnis told the news programme he had confidence in the integrity of those on the commission. But he said he hoped they would be able to gain an objective picture.

The public meetings, he said, were not truth commissions, and provided an opportunity for a "very, very well-orchestrated campaign by the terrorist related party" (Sinn Fein).

Bairbra de Bruin, Sinn Fein Assembly member and spokesman on policing, said she wished the commission well in its work.

She insisted her party and its supporters would accept nothing less than a new police service which could have widespread support.

They did not believe the RUC could be built on, and instead there had to be a new force, she said.

But Ms de Bruin added that this did not mean no one from the RUC could join the new force.

"We do believe present members of the RUC would be open to join such a new service but it wouldn't be automatic and we believe there should be a screening process to make sure that people who have a history of human rights abuses within the force would not carry over."

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