Case puts spotlight on policing reforms

REVELATIONS surrounding a police plot to frame an innocent Catholic man for a crime he did not commit have sparked further anger over the future of RUC reform. A leading human rights group has said Bernard Griffin would probably be in prison today had not one of the officers involved in the episode reported his colleagues. While news of the case saw Sinn Fein claim its policy on policing was “vindicated”, the SDLP described it as a “milestone case”, and the DUP said it proved the effectiveness of the judicial system. SDLP north Belfast MLA Alban Maginness said: “I am pleased that Mr Griffin’s nightmare is over and that his complaint about the abuse that he received at the hands of police officers has been completely and utterly vindicated. “This is a milestone case in terms of completely exposing police misconduct and sets an example for those police officers who abuse their position.” While the Ulster Unionist Party declined to comment on the case, Sinn Fein said there could now be “no watering down of the Patten proposals”. The party’s north Belfast assembly member Gerry Kelly claimed the officers’ threat to have Mr Griffin killed by the LVF highlighted allegations of collusion. “It is now clear for all to see that the Patten proposals cannot be watered down to suit unionist demands,” he said. But DUP representative for north Belfast, Nigel Dodds, said the convictions proved the existing system worked. “Clearly here is the British system of justice, here is the much-maligned prosecution service and police investigations – here they have been seen to deliver a verdict in this case,” he said. “I think it points up the contrast with what is happening with punishment beatings where a blind eye is being turned.” The RUC said it had “thoroughly investigated” Mr Griffin’s complaint resulting in yesterday’s criminal convictions. It was also confirmed that disciplinary proceedings would now begin. The representative added: “Police officers are accountable to the law, as any other citizen.” Mr Griffin’s solicitor, Eamonn McMenamin of Madden and Finucane, said the case was similar to “hundreds” he had handled in the past. “The only reason this case is different is because constable Lea had the courage to expose what has been repeated time and time again by other clients,” he said. Paul Mageean, of human rights group the Committee on the Administration of Justice, described the judgment as “ground-breaking”. Meanwhile, in a statement issued to the BBC, the Police Authority for Northern Ireland said it condemned “any breach of the law by any RUC officers, particularly this type of appalling assault”.