Simon Byrne responds to criticism by republicans

Chief Constable Simon Byrne
Chief Constable Simon Byrne

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne has responded to criticism from republicans over comments that children could be taken away from their parents as part of a drive against paramilitarism.

Speaking at the Policing Board on Thursday he said: "I recognise that my enthusiasm to talk in sound bites has caused a distraction and I want to sort of place on record my commitment to recognising the importance of safeguarding and protecting children. What I was not trying to describe was a blanket policy. I was not trying to describe something that's applied retrospectively."

Responding to Sinn Féin's admonishment that children "can’t be used as pawns in a wider strategy to ‘deter’ paramilitaries," the Chief Constable said, "I was certainly not trying to see children as a weapon or a pawn in the fight against tackling paramilitary crime."

The recently appointed PSNI chief caused controversy at a ‘Policing – 20 Years on from Patten’ conference in Belfast when he said: “If you are somebody that has carried out a shooting, you’ve got a gun and you’ve got young children, why would I think you’re safe in the presence of young children? So what safeguarding powers have we got to take your kids into care if that’s a deterrant?”

While acknowledging concerns at the Policing Board today he nonetheless reiterated his view that: "There will be occasions in investigations, for example in a search warrant, where officers will see things that cause concern about the safety and wellbeing of a child, and I was trying to remind officers that there are powers they can use thereby."