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EDITIONS
Friday, 6 December, 2002, 08:11 GMT
Complaint over officer's retirement
Northern Ireland Policing Board
Policing Board is seeking legal advice over letter
Belfast's leading special branch officer has made an official complaint to the Policing Board about his sudden departure from the service.

Chief Constable Hugh Orde has denied coming under any political pressure to seek the removal of Chief Superintendent Bill Lowry from his post.

He was responding to a question from the Democratic Unionist Party's Ian Paisley Jnr about the officer's recent retirement.

The senior officer - who was in charge of last month's operation against alleged IRA spying at Stormont - was the head of the PSNI Special Branch in Belfast.


The board is currently seeking legal advice on how to proceed with this matter and is unable to make any further comment at this time

Desmond Rea
Policing Board

Policing Board Chairman Professor Desmond Rea confirmed he had received a letter expressing a senior officer's deep dismay at the situation.

"A former chief superintendent in the Police Service of Northern Ireland has made an official complaint," he said.

"The board is currently seeking legal advice on how to proceed with this matter and is unable to make any further comment at this time."

'Full investigation'

Mr Orde said: "I came under no pressure whatsoever to encourage anyone to leave the Police Service of Northern Ireland."

The police chief said he was dismayed to lose all experienced officers.
Bill Lowry: Former head of Belfast Special Branch
Bill Lowry: Former head of Belfast Special Branch

"However, if an officer chooses to retire, it's entirely appropriate for them to do that," he said.

Mr Paisley Jnr demanded a full investigation into the issue, adding: "There's prima facie evidence that there's more to this than meets the eye.

"Was there political interference from London?

"Was Bill too successful in the type of people he was arresting?" Explaining the background to the issue, BBC Northern Ireland security editor Brian Rowan said it stemmed back to 'Operation Torsion' - a Special Branch and MI5 operation targeting the IRA.

"The tip-off which put special branch onto the IRA came from a special branch informer.

"Some time before that arrest operation on October 4 - including the controversial raid on Sinn Fein offices at Stormont - the police, MI5 and the Northern Ireland Office knew the IRA had infiltrated the Northern Ireland Office and the IRA had information on prison officers."


Before he retired on Monday 18, that disciplinary charge was withdrawn - clearly something is still bubbling in the background

Brian Rowan
BBC NI

He said Mr Orde had since ordered an investigation into leaks to the media.

He also said Mr Lowry's retirement was "not straightforward".

"There is a background to that retirement. Bill Lowry retired on Monday 18 November. Three days earlier he was served with disciplinary papers at police headquarters.

"The disciplinary charge that was put to him, as I understand it, was that without the proper authority of the chief constable, at a date and time unknown, he had disclosed confidential information regarding an ongoing operation to the media.

"Before he retired on Monday 18, that disciplinary charge was withdrawn. Clearly something is still bubbling in the background."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's political correspondent Gareth Gordon:
"It's clear this issue could have serious implications for the future of policing in N Ireland"
See also:

03 Dec 02 | N Ireland
25 Nov 02 | N Ireland
25 Nov 02 | N Ireland
17 Nov 02 | N Ireland
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