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Thursday, September 2, 1999 Published at 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

'Deep concern' over Patten leaks

The report into the future of the RUC will be published next week

A former chief constable of the RUC has expressed his concern about the leaking of recommendations due to be made by the commission into the future of the force.

The Independent Commission into Policing in Northern Ireland, which is chaired by Chris Patten, is due to publish its proposals next week.

The Search for Peace
But there have already been media reports on the findings which include suggestions that the RUC may change its name and its badge.

It has also been suggested that the force could drop the oath of allegiance to the Queen and that the UK flag will no longer be flown over RUC police stations.

'Deep concern'

Sir John Hermon, who was chief constable of the force between 1980 and 1989, said: "I did support the Patten committee and did, and still do, the assembly because I think they're both essential.

"What concerns me about the Patten commission at the moment is the unprecedented number of leaks of what the Patten commission report is going to concern.

[ image: The RUC badge could be replaced]
The RUC badge could be replaced
"This has caused a lot of deep concern not only within the Royal Ulster Constabulary but I would also say the considerable majority of this community."

Sir John said his main concern centred on the future of the RUC's Special Branch, one of Europe's most experienced anti-terrorist police units.

Referring to a report into policing in the province in 1969 by Lord Hunt which saw the Ulster Special Constabulary disbanded and replaced by the Ulster Defence Regiment Sir John said he believed there must be justification for any changes.

"My concern is that we do not have a repeat of the 1969 debacle when the RUC was created into an unarmed, non-retaliatory civilianised police force not to be involved in public disorder and not to be involved in security.

"Those last two were delegated to the army.

"We have suffered 30 years of violence and stupendous number of murders because of that and that is what concerns me," he said.

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