1 year ago

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Keeping our people safe

Keeping our people safe The Ulster Unionist Party supports the rule of law and will always remain on the side of the citizen against the criminal. The outgoing Executive oversaw crisis after crisis in the Northern Ireland justice system. Public confidence in the Courts and judicial system has been badly shaken. Policing numbers continue to lag at least 700 behind the 7,500 recommended by the Patten Report, meaning that an even greater burden is placed on those tasked with protecting and serving the community. This has had an obvious impact on morale within the PSNI and is a major cause of unacceptably high stress levels. Staffing levels are also a concern in the Northern Ireland Prison Service, as is the security and safety of staff, both on and off duty. Morale has also been affected by pay claims that have not been honoured and the ongoing difficulties caused by the continued separated regime at Maghaberry is an area which must be resolved. More also must be done to meet the needs of prisoners, not least with regard to mental health and well-being. There has also been significant public concern regarding what are perceived to be overly lenient sentences in a number of cases ranging from murder, drink driving to animal cruelty, and also the need for changes in bail policy, especially with regard to terrorist cases. Furthermore, public confidence has been shaken by the sight of former soldiers being brought before the courts whilst terrorist suspects have been handed ‘letters of comfort’ and Royal Pardons. This is clearly a grave inequity and the system must reflect the fact that 90 per cent of deaths during the Troubles were down to terrorist action. Terrorist acts such as no warning bomb explosions caused thousands of serious physical and psychological injuries. We welcome the fact that the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry led by Sir Anthony Hart has now reported, but we deplore the fact that the collapse of the Executive has caused so much uncertainty as to when recompense will be made available to the victims. It was just yet another example of how the last Executive failed to deliver for some of the most vulnerable in society. 22 | The Ulster Unionist Party | Manifesto 2017

Increasing our policing numbers Action is needed urgently to increase recruitment and ensure that the PSNI has sufficient manpower to carry out its duties, protect the public and fulfil its duty of care to its officers. We need a police force with resilience and an increase in neighbourhood policing to instil confidence in our communities. The Ulster Unionist Party would honour the Patten recommendation of 7,500 full-time police officers. Supporting our Prison Service We would address the crisis in morale amongst Prison Service staff by ensuring that previously pledged pay commitments are honoured and staffing levels increased to reduce the pressure on existing staff. Dissident Republicans who are opposed to the peace in Northern Ireland should not get special treatment or privileges but should be treated as all criminals are treated. We would also move to a more normalised prison service which would see by 2021 no new admissions to separate paramilitary wings and by 2026 a fully integrated prison regime. Tackling paramilitary activity, criminality and organised crime Almost 23 years after the first paramilitary ceasefires and almost 19 years after the Belfast Agreement it is surely wrong that tackling paramilitary activity, criminality and organised crime remains the challenge that it is. The public want to see paramilitary and criminal godfathers taken off the streets and given meaningful sentences that act as a deterrent to others. There must be the political will to do so, the Police must be given all the resources necessary and the courts must impose the maximum sentences available. We will continue to argue that if society is going to move forward then our prisons must do similarly. A rebalancing of the Justice system A complete overhaul of the justice system is needed to review the fundamentals. Prison is meant to punish, deter and provide the chance for rehabilitation. Many people look at the type of sentences being handed out in high profile cases and see an absence of both punishment and meaningful deterrent. Public confidence must be restored as a matter of urgency. Courts must be prepared to use the full tariffs available to them and criminals must know they will not be allowed to defy the system. The justice system must be rebalanced in favour of victims. Rebalancing legacy investigations The perception of imbalance in investigations into Troubles related crime, with a disproportionate focus on State forces rather than terrorists, has helped fuel the perception of a system that is unfair. We must find a way to protect those who protected us during the worst days of the troubles. The forces of law and order should not be viewed in the same way as paramilitaries and terrorists and it is unfair that they should face the full weight of the law in respect of legacy issues when others do not. Manifesto 2017 | The Ulster Unionist Party | 23

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