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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 October 2005, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Board briefed on corruption probe
Armoured police vehicles are used in troubled areas
Contract related to armour plating of police vehicles
An outside expert is to advise the police on a criminal investigation into alleged corruption, Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde has said.

He briefed the Policing Board following legal action last week over a cancelled contract for vehicle armour-plating.

A High Court judge said there was evidence someone in the PSNI had "deliberately undermined" a firm which had lost the contract to a rival.

Sir Hugh said he took the court case "extremely seriously".

"I'm quite confident that we have the expertise within the organisation to look at the allegations that have been made," he told the board.

"Currently we are dealing with the statement from the judge but we will look far wider than that.

"I'm very interested in seeing how contracts were awarded at that time. If there was any wrong doing be it criminal or administrative, it will be dealt with."

In last week's High Court action, Northern Ireland Sheet Metal Works Ltd was awarded 400,000 in damages.

The Belfast-based company took an action for breach of contract after Firth Rixson Castings Ltd was awarded the contract, at an extra cost of 350,000.

Sir Hugh Orde made the comments about the case when the Policing Board met on Thursday.

During the meeting, the board also demanded a meeting about restorative justice projects with Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain.

It warned that proposed NIO guidelines may result in "a two-tier system of policing by the back door".

Restorative justice schemes can see offenders meet victims

Policing Board chairman Sir Desmond Rea said it was unanimous in calling for "an immediate halt to any deals behind closed doors".

Supporters argue it provides a positive alternative to paramilitary beatings.

Earlier this month, Justice Minister David Hanson told the BBC that he hoped to publish new guidelines on restorative justice "before the early New Year".

Fourteen schemes are currently in operation in republican areas, administered by an organisation called Community Restorative Justice.

Five operate in loyalist areas, run by a group called Northern Ireland Alternatives, which works with the police, who sit on their management committee.

All the schemes are funded by Atlantic Philanthropies, a charity set up by the US millionaire Chuck Feeney who has in the past given money to Sinn Fein.

However, this private funding for restorative justice is expected to run out at the end of the financial year in April.

Both loyalist and republican groups have applied for state funding without success.

It is believed any future funding is being tied to the groups' acceptance of the new guidelines.

Guidelines on justice by New Year
05 Oct 05 |  Northern Ireland
Restorative justice in spotlight
28 Feb 05 |  Northern Ireland
'Major advance' in justice reform
07 Jul 05 |  Northern Ireland


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