My right Honourable Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Theresa Villiers) has made the following written Ministerial statement: This is a summary of the main findings from the report by Lord Carlile, the Independent Reviewer of National Security Arrangements in Northern Ireland, covering the period from 1 January 2015 to 31 January 2016. Lord Carlile concludes:
“Throughout the year I have been briefed extensively on the state of threat in Northern Ireland. The context in which national security activities are performed in Northern Ireland remains challenging. As in the previous year there have been successes against dissident republicans [DRs], with a number of high profile trials pending. Police and security pressure has resulted in significant attrition but attacks still occur. Cooperation with the Irish authorities is good. This has quickened the pace of activity against DRs.
I regard 2015 as a year of continuing success in thwarting and detecting terrorism; whilst there is no sign of reduced ambition in the minds of terrorists, the ability of these terrorists to carry out attacks has suppressed over the years by successful attrition and arrests. This is undoubtedly the result of excellent joint activity by MI5 and PSNI. Given that the total exclusion of paramilitary activity is unlikely to be achieved in the measurable future, MI5, the PSNI and others involved have maintained good progress.
In preparing this report I have considered the current threat level, and what I have learned of events of a terrorist nature during the year. There were 16 national security attacks during 2015, with no serious injuries. Dissident republican groupings are resilient and capable; a number of attacks in 2015 were unsuccessful by narrow margins. Current and released prisoners continue to present a challenge. I was reminded of the diverse and enduring nature of the threat.
Dissident republicans remain interested in and involved in criminality, organised crime and money laundering. They also retain a political purpose, some with more determination than others.
Loyalist paramilitaries also have political imperatives, though the motivation of many is the making of money through extortion and other organised crime.
During 2015, I have met a range of stakeholders. I have engaged with PSNI and MI5 and examined the relationship between them and the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland [PONI] and the Northern Ireland Policing Board [NIPB]. I also met some of the NI political parties. I am grateful to NIO Ministers for their close interest in the matters discussed here. Meetings with Ministers have occurred. Ministers are always well briefed and exceptionally well informed on all material issues.
During 2015 I met with the Northern Ireland Policing Board (NIPB), and also Alyson Kilpatrick, the Independent Human Rights Advisor to the NIPB. The NIPB can feel assured that the Human Rights Advisor is well able to discharge her duties in respect of national security.
I met the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Executive's Minister of Justice, David Ford MLA. Both have been extremely frank and helpful. I do not underestimate the formidable nature of the Ombudsman’s job, especially in relation to older cases. Furthermore, I would like to express my admiration and thanks to David Ford. He has played a significant part in the normalisation of the justice system and the rule of law in NI.
I am satisfied that the periodic briefings provided to me have been full and not selective, and that I have a good understanding of relevant matters. Interlocutors across the security piece, including vocal opponents and critics, have been willing to brief me.
I held a detailed meeting with the Committee on the Administration of Justice [CAJ]. They provided me with a robustly critical narrative of the current security situation. I found their views helpful, though more anxious than the true security situation justifies in my opinion. The CAJ expressed the view that deprivation caused by austerity is leading to recruitment into paramilitary groups. These views found resonance with some interlocutors.
This year once again I have reviewed the arrangements for Covert Human Intelligence Sources [CHIS]. Overall the use of CHIS is effective. CHIS operations are run with a clear investigative strategy. Participation of CHIS in crime is subject to strict control and protocols. There are frequent meetings between PSNI and MI5 at a senior level to discuss CHIS policy and operations, and in accordance with the St. Andrews principles, PSNI manage the majority of national security CHIS. There is a systematic review procedure for CHIS.
Across all my conversations in the past year I have found confusion and concern about how historic issues are to be dealt with and addressed. Much optimism is being placed in the proposed Historical Investigations Unit [HIU]. I am sure the Secretary of State and NI Executive Ministers will ensure proportionate funding, and the level of documentary and other evidential disclosure necessary for the fulfilment of its proper objectives.
I have considered a number of issues in relation to terrorism prosecutions. I continue to have concerns about the length of sentences in NI for terrorism related offences, and that delays in cases coming to trial are resulting in defendants being released on bail. I acknowledge the reform of committal proceedings contained in the Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2015. I discussed more active case management and plea bargaining as means to save court time.
Despite the active and concerned involvement of senior judges throughout the criminal justice system there remain concerns about the disclosure system in which public interest immunity and related disclosure issues are not dealt with by the trial judge, as they are in GB.
I remain of the view that the residual serious and lethal threat of terrorism justifies the continuation of the non-jury trial arrangements provided under the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007.
I have enquired again about the use of intercept evidence. I remain satisfied that there is solid scrutiny and review of interception, in an environment in which communications technology is developing quickly.
Continued vigilance and the maintenance of counter-terrorism resourcing are essential. However, once again I have drawn comfort from the successful joint operations between MI5 and the PSNI, and their high level of co-operation with their counterparts in the Republic of Ireland. Normality is a genuine and mostly realisable ambition, rather than merely an aspiration.
Attrition caused by arrests and charges both in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has been good in 2015; but a number of challenges in combatting the threat remain.
I have measured performance in 2015 against the five key principles identified in relation to national security in Annex E to the St Andrews Agreement of October 2006. My conclusions in relation to Annex E are set out in the attached Table.”
Text of Annex E
Further to reinforce this comprehensive set of safeguards, the Government confirms that it accepts and will ensure that effect is given to the five key principles which the Chief Constable has identified as crucial to the effective operation of the new arrangements, viz:
All Security Service intelligence relating to terrorism in Northern Ireland will be visible to the PSNI.
There is compliance. Arrangements are in place to deal with any suspected malfeasance by a PSNI or MI5 officer.
PSNI will be informed of all Security Service counter terrorist investigations and operations relating to Northern Ireland.
There is compliance.
Security Service intelligence will be disseminated within PSNI according to the current PSNI dissemination policy, and using police procedures.
There is compliance. Dissemination policy has developed since the new arrangements came into force.
The great majority of national security CHIS in Northern Ireland will continue to be run by PSNI officers under existing police handling protocols.
The majority of CHIS are run by the PSNI. Protocols have not stood still. A review of existing protocols and the development of up to date replacements should always be work in progress and clearly accountable.
There will be no diminution of the PSNI’s responsibility to comply with the Human Rights Act or the Policing Board’s ability to monitor said compliance.
The PSNI must continue to comply. The Policing Board, with the advice of their Human Rights Advisor as a key component, will continue the role of monitoring compliance.