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Saturday, 23 March, 2002, 13:06 GMT
NIO defends security breach appointment
Castlereagh is the PSNI's Belfast headquarters
Castlereagh is the PSNI's Belfast headquarters
Northern Ireland Office minister Des Browne has defended the decision to appoint Sir John Chilcot to carry out the review of the security breach at Castlereagh.

The deputy chairman of the Policing Board, Denis Bradley, had questioned whether Sir John's links with the intelligence services provided the right image for an independent inquiry.

A Special Branch officer was assaulted and documents taken when three men, who were not masked, entered an office inside the Castlereagh centre in the east of the city, on Sunday.

Two separate investigations into the incident are to take place - the police's own and an inquiry by former senior civil servant Sir John Chilcot who will report directly to Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid.

I think that in Sir John Chilcott, the secretary of state has identified just such a person

Des Browne
NIO minister

Mr Browne told Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme that Sir John was the best man for the job.

"I think there is always a balance to be struck between those who have the experience and the ability to conduct a review of this matter and people who will act in an honest and independent fashion," he said.

"I think that in Sir John Chilcot, the secretary of state has identified just such a person."

Denis Bradley said on Friday: "I have yet to meet one person in Northern Ireland who believes that this is anything to do with anything other than the government looking after its own needs and its own internal difficulties," he said.

However, in a statement, the NIO said: "Any incident which involves a number of people gaining access to the Special Branch office is a matter of national security and national security is a matter for the secretary of state.

Des Browne
Des Browne: "Right choice"
"The secretary of state acted decisively and effectively to announce the appointment of Sir John Chillcot who has a long record of public service and experience."

On Wednesday, it emerged that the office was only moved to that room from another part of the building a week previously because the complex was being refurbished.

The theft occured in the source handling unit, which is used as a "link-point" for informers and their police handlers.

Sir John Chilcot will be assisted by Sir Colin Smith, a former Thames Valley chief constable and a former member of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary.
Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid
John Reid: Established review

When he announced the review, Dr Reid said it would establish how the security breach happened, what damage it did to national security and whether measures taken in response were adequate.

The review will proceed in parallel with the criminal investigation which is being led by Detective Chief Superintendent Phil Wright, the most senior detective in Belfast.

Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan said her office would not carry out any investigation into the breach at this stage.

Northern Ireland Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan has said the documents stolen do not include the names of security force informers.

Special Branch deals with intelligence work, some relating to informers, and has an anti-terrorism role in Northern Ireland.

One of the main police centres for the interrogation of terrorist suspects was located at Castlereagh. It closed at the end of 1999.

NIO minister Des Browne:
"There is always a balance to be struck"
See also:

21 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
Trimble 'concerned' at security breach
20 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
Police security breach review heads
20 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
Security breach inquiries 'damaging'
20 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
Informers: A dangerous assignment
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