Annual Branch Meeting

"Policing Northern Ireland"

  by Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton  
Neil Donaldson (Chairman of St Finnian's Branch), Asst Chief Constable Mark Hamilton and
the Very Revd Gregory Dunstan (CIMS General Secretary)
  The Annual Branch Meeting was held in St Finnian's Cregagh  on Thursday 12 October 2017 and the topic was "Policing Northern Ireland".

Our speaker was Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton who joined the police in 1994. His father had served in the RUC from 1963 to 2001, and three other family members had also served. Originally graduating in French and Latin from Trinity College Dublin he had gone on to achieve three Masters degrees, in Social Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice, in Science in Pokice Leadership and Management, and in Human Rights Law.

Having served in a wide variety of posts in Belfast and Armagh in 2009 he was appointed Chief Superintendent responsible for North & West Belfast. Then in 2012 he took on the role as Deputy Head of Service Inprovement with responsibility for many branches covering the Community, Criminal Justice, Public Protection, Anti-Corruption and Vetting, Discipline, firearms and Explosives, and for Custody Healthcare. In 2014 he took on UK responsibility for promoting Hate Crime standards and awareness.

He spoke about policing in his father's time through the troubled times in Northern Ireland. The 3500 police in the 1960s were overwhelmed in the 1970s having to police situations like Drumcree. Numbers were increased to 13 000 with support of 5000 soldiers. With the coming of more peaceful times numbers had now dropped to about 6000. Despite having an armed force fewer people were shot by the RUC than English forces.

He compared the crimes during his father's time with those of today. There is less housebreaking and car theft, but more small valuable items like mobile phones, cyber crime - scams, identity theft and bullying. He claimed there was less danger for young children walking down the street than being online in their homes. Police officers have to work under cover online to bait these criminals.

Nevertheless the public is reassured by seeing Officers on the beat. In Northern Ireland there is a domestic incident every 19 minutes, and 7 women are murdered each year in domestic violence.

He finished by discussing the need for support for officers requiring great mental capacity to deal with varied situations - picking up body parts after an accident, viewing images of abused children to categorise them 1-5 for courts, or the strain on deciding whether to send officers to a reported burglary which may be a trap with the liability of being hit by a rocket or other anti-personal devices, and drug and alcohol abuse gives issues for safe custody.

After a break for tea there was a frank question and answer session. Mark said he had made two Oaths in his life, both of which he found very important. One was his marriage Oath but the other was his police Oath to discharge his duties with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all individuals and their traditions and beliefs. Any officer not living up to his Oath should not remain in the Service.

Members from a number of branches found the talk most interesting.
Many thanks to the St Finnian's Branch for hosting the event.