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."