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Monday, 8 July, 2002, 10:35 GMT 11:35 UK
Legal move over plastic bullets
Policeman training with a baton gun
Baton rounds have caused deaths in Northern Ireland
A legal move against the police over the use of plastic baton rounds has begun in the High Court in Belfast.

Peter Montgomery from the Markets area in the south of the city is objecting to the use of new plastic bullets by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Mr Montgomery is suing the PSNI chief constable, the Policing Board and the Ministry of Defence for compensation.

His arm is in a sling after being injured - allegedly by a plastic bullet - during recent rioting in the Short Strand area of east Belfast.


The courts have been prevented from ruling on the legitimacy of the use of plastic bullets

Kevin Winters Solicitor

Mr Montgomery's solicitor Kevin Winters said the action was a test case.

"We represent a large number of victims from various areas who have been badly injured as a result of the use of these potentially fatal weapons," he said.

"Over the years the chief constable's office and the Ministry of Defence have been willing to pay out in excess of 2.5m in compensation to victims of these bullets.

Supporters

"This has meant that the courts have been prevented from ruling on the legitimacy of the use of plastic bullets and consequently this has continued without censure."

The complainant arrived at the court with several supporters to lodge his writ.

Representatives of the human rights group Relatives for Justice also attended the hearing.

New baton round was introduced in July 2001
A new baton round was introduced in July 2001

They were accompanied by a number of people who claim to have been injured by the new plastic baton round.

Clara Reilly, from the Campaign to Ban the Use of Plastic Bullets, said the Patten Report had recommended a safer alternative but claimed: "The new one is more lethal than its predecessor."

She said she was present to support all the people, regardless of what community, in the fight to have plastic bullets banned.

The firing of plastic bullets in Northern Ireland since 1973 has been controversial.

They were introduced by security forces at the height of the Troubles to replace rubber bullets following a string of fatalities.

However, 14 people - including seven children - have died after being struck by the theoretically non-lethal alternatives.

The Patten Report on police reform in Northern Ireland recommended research to find an acceptable, effective and less potentially lethal alternative to plastic bullets.

But the team investigating the matter has yet to find a replacement, and is not expected to publish a report until autumn 2002.

Legal sources said it may be a year before Mr Montgomery's case comes before the court.

See also:

28 May 02 | N Ireland
30 Nov 01 | N Ireland
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