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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 May 2006, 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK
Orde defends PSNI's crime record
Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde
Sir Hugh said the police were not complacent
The police's record on crime rates and detections in NI has been defended by Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde.

Sir Hugh clashed with the DUP's Ian Paisley Junior during the first meeting of the new Policing Board.

He said crime had increased by 4% in the past 11 months but that: "Northern Ireland is still a safe place to live."

Responding to Mr Paisley's comment that the figures "were not good enough", Sir Hugh said the PSNI "was fit for purpose" and "not complacent".

The Policing Board was meeting in public for the first time since it was reconstituted last month.

It is an independent body made up of 19 members to ensure an effective, efficient, accountable and impartial police service.

Sir Hugh said the crime increase, which had produced more than 3,000 victims, was mainly due to three factors:

  • More than 1,300 offences previously not counted in crime statistics were now being included

  • trouble following last September's controversial Whiterock Orange parade in west Belfast meant about 650 offences were registered

  • there were 687 reported cases of domestic violence, which was a very large increase but a "positive" sign people felt more comfortable in reporting such offences.

Sir Hugh also faced questions about the police role in monitoring the movements of Trevor Hamilton, convicted of murdering Strabane pensioner Attracta Harron.

Mrs Harron, 65, was killed less than four months after Hamilton had been released from prison.

He had served a sentence for raping, assaulting and threatening to kill a woman.

Trevor Hamilton was convicted of murder last month
Trevor Hamilton was convicted of murder last month

After he was sentenced, it emerged he was considered such a high risk to women he was one of the most closely monitored sex offenders in Northern Ireland.

The board was told that the PSNI did all it could in monitoring sex offenders and would continue to do so.

The death of Stephen Colwell in Ballynahinch was also raised.

Mr Colwell, 23, a father of one, was shot by police while driving a stolen car in Ballynahinch on 16 April.

Deputy Chief Constable Paul Leighton said it would be inappropriate to comment because investigators from Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan's office were examining the circumstances of the shooting.

Ulster Unionists stayed away from the meeting as part of a "selective boycott" over its membership.

Independent, non-elected representatives now outnumber political members of the authority.

The party has accused Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain of turning the organisation into a quango.

Neither of the UUP's two representatives, MLAs Fred Cobain and Danny Kennedy, attended.

A UUP spokesman would not confirm when they would attend.

He said: "If things come up which we deem to be crucial we will go on it. But it's our decision and at our discretion."

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