The PSNI has been accused of “a cover-up” after refusing to disclose the costs involved in a recent operation investigating paramilitary activity in the Dungiven area.
From November 27-December 2, 2014, seven men were questioned by detectives. Six men were released unconditionally, including Sinn Fein counillors Tony McCaul and Sean McGlinchey. One man was released pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service.
The ‘Journal’ asked in a freedom of information request how many personnel were involved in the operation and from what departments, the time span of the operation, if it was ongoing, and how much it had cost. The only information provided by the PSNI was there was no specific budget set for the operation. The PSNI said its decision to withold the outstanding information was because “while there is a strong public interest in releasing the information requested the PSNI must ensure that any present or future investigation is not adversely affected by the release of information. On balance the requirement to withold the information relating to a criminal investigation must therefore take precedence”.
At a Limavady PCSP meeting on Monday, Colr. McCaul said he was told by a senior police officer each arrest cost approximately £2,000. Colr. McCaul said: “I find it rather strange because I thought the PSNI had to account for every penny spent. The figures should be released because, to me, it was a pointless, yet costly exercise,” said Colr. McCaul.
Colr. McGlinchey said police were entitled to make arrests and conduct subsequent investigations “but it’s public money. I don’t care what department it is - health, education - the PSNI should know how much each project costs and the public are entitled to know that. To cover up the cost of these arrests isn’t acceptable.”
The PSNI said: “In response to a written question, PCSP members were given an approximation of the cost of the arrest element of the operation based on personnel taskings. As stated in the FOI response, no specific budget was set for wider operation. As such PSNI does not hold the specific information requested in the FOI and is not required to create information to provide a response.”