Northern Ireland
Critique of Ombudsman’s report on Plastic Bullets - Pat Finucane Centre


1)The largest single use of plastic bullets in one incident in 2001 was in Ardoyne on July 12. 48 were fired. During this incident 16 year old Ciara Crossan was struck in the forehead. The Ombudsmans report totally ignores this incident. According to the Defence Scientific Advisory Council report into the new plastic bullet the missile could become embedded in the skull if fired head on as in this case.

2) No mention whatsoever is made of plastic bullets fired by the British Army at the request of the police. British Army guidelines remain classified and no investigative process is allowed for. The Ombudsman’s report only covers the firing of 36 plastic bullets in a period where at least 98 were fired by the RUC/PSNI.

3) The report relies heavily on the police version and fails to take into account civilian evidence of incidents. ie On the Garvaghy Rd in May 2001 the RUC claimed that 6 were fired. In a statement issued today the Garvaghy Road Residents Group has stated that at least 11 were fired. Civilian statements provided to the PFC at the time confirm this.

4) In a number of incidents dealt with in the report there is independent evidence of plastics bullets being fired with upper body and head injuries. These are not mentioned in the report. (See RFJ press conference at 11am today in Belfast tel 02890 220100)

5) The Ombudsmans report fails to take account of the reality that the majority of people who are injured by plastic bullets do not report the cause of their injury. Police and A&E statistics are seriously flawed.

6) Attempts in the report to distance the current version of the plastic bullet from the previous versions which were used to kill fourteen people – "Injuries and deaths resulted from the use of the precursor of the baton round, the plastic bullet" (foreword to Ombudsman’s report) are completely erroneous – this is not a new or different weapon, it is a more lethal modification of the plastic bullet. Nuala O’Loan is well aware of this given her many years on the Police Authority, the body which purchased and authorised the use of plastic bullets.

6) This seriously flawed report will have a ‘chilling effect’ on all those who may have considered filing complaints regarding the use of plastic bullets. The United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets, Relatives for Justice and the Pat Finucane Centre cannot at this point recommend that complaints should be made to the Police Ombudsman about the use of plastic bullets. We are seeking an urgent meeting with Nuala O’Loan. Until these issues are resolved we cannot co-operate with the Ombudsman’s office on the specific issue of plastic bullets. We have come to this view reluctantly but feel that the methodology, timing and content of this report has damaged confidence in the ability of the Ombudsman’s office to pursue complaints regarding the use of plastic bullets.

See also www.serve.com/pfc and www.relativesforjustice.com for further info on plastic bullets. See www.policeombudsman.org for a copy of the report


Statewatch News online | Join Statewatch news e-mail list | If you use this site regularly, you are encouraged to make a donation to Statewatch to support future research | Subscribe to Statewatch online just £10 a year