Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo

Northern Ireland Assembly

23 January 2001 (continued)

Mr Savage:

Is the Minister aware that there are fewer houses in the countryside now than there were 25 years ago?

Mr Foster:

I am aware that there are concerns in parts of the country about the lack of housing in rural areas. Nevertheless, the number of houses that have been built throughout the countryside largely equates with that in other places. There is concern throughout the farming community about the problem of getting houses in rural areas. I have had that experience in my own county of Fermanagh.

Mr Arthur Doherty referred to European designations. He mentioned the designation of Natura 2000 European sites. These are designations that satisfy the EU Birds and Habitats Directives (79/409/EEC and 92/43/EEC). I am pleased to state that my Department is meeting its obligations under these Directives. Furthermore, sites that are being added to the Natura 2000 network are, in all cases, protected by underpinning ASSI declarations.

I have discussed what my Department is doing or is planning to do but, as with all the main environmental problems, the solution lies not in regulation alone but in actions by all sectors and, indeed, by society as a whole. We must acknowledge the value of the environment to ourselves and to succeeding generations. Each of us, as an individual, never mind whole sectors, can and should make a difference. We must work at it ourselves. All sectors - central and local government, the private and voluntary sectors - need to work together.

As I said in relation to Ballynahone Bog, the most effective initiatives will be those based on partnership between sectors. The work of the Northern Ireland Biodiversity Group in making its recommendations last year is another excellent example of this. As this debate shows, the interest of Members will continue to help both my officials and myself in developing our policy. Therefore I sincerely hope that everyone - not least this Assembly - will grasp the opportunity provided by the forthcoming consultation to develop the type of partnership approach, including all those involved in the management and use of our natural heritage, that will be so vital to our success. I am looking forward to hearing as wide a range of views as possible from those interested in caring for our natural heritage.

I welcome this debate and am pleased to have participated in it.

Ms Morrice:

I thank the Minister for announcing that the consultation will take place within six weeks. Perhaps this debate has been a taster for that consultation. We have heard many interesting and different views from all parties, so it is certainly a forerunner to the consultation that the Minister will be carrying out. I look forward to the immediate enactment of legislation as a result of that consultation.

It may have been an oversight on my part not to outline the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 as it stands. I understood it to be two separate pieces of legislation. The Unionists, and Mr Bradley, were concerned about the right to roam and the issue of access. Mr Douglas also mentioned it. However, those were two separate pieces of legislation, which were put together simply for reasons of parliamentary procedure to get them through. The motion relates solely to the countryside element and to ASSIs. I am talking about equivalent protection. Any legislation that comes through to Northern Ireland will not include that access element. We are not asking for that.

The Committee Chairperson indicated that the Committee is looking at these issues and has been pressing the Minister to move on this. That is very useful to know. Obviously, through a concerted attempt from all of us, we are getting movement on this. He also mentioned the penalties for damaging ASSIs, and that is very important.

It is very appropriate that the Deputy Chairperson and Arthur Doherty mentioned the European context and the need to keep up to European standards, set by EC Directives and European designations. We need to keep up with those Directives and to enhance them. Northern Ireland has a very poor track record in bringing European Directives on-stream. I know from previous experience that Northern Ireland was lagging behind in the introduction of European legislation on environmental policy. We need to move very quickly on that.

Mrs Carson, Jim Wilson and Ivan Davis talked about the right to roam issue. I hope that I have dispelled any fears about that, allowing them to support the motion.

It was excellent that this motion allowed a number of Members to wax lyrical. I mention Mick Murphy from Sinn Féin and Ian Adamson. I am thankful for their contributions, for one side of the House was quoting Pete Seeger's "Where have all the flowers gone?", and the other side quoted every Ulster poet. It is a perfect opportunity - and totally correct - for lyricism to come into this rural rhyming.

Very interestingly, David Ford brought up the issue of hare coursing on Rathlin Island. I have been approached about that subject as well. I thank the Minister for responding to that and for adding his voice to the concerns.

Mr Ford also brought in the whole issue of the confusion in the Department. The Minister is really going to have to get to grips with the Department's roles and responsibilities with regard to roads, planning, protection of the environment, et cetera. As Mr Ford said, there is absolutely no doubt that, while in this Assembly we talk politics most of the time - or the politics of controversy, let us say - our constituents write to us, begging us to talk about issues which probably affect the Minister's Department more than any other Department in this Assembly. I get more questions about matters such as planning, transport and wildlife conservation than about any others. That should impress their importance upon the Minister and the Department.

Cedric Wilson brought up the vitally important issue of planning, and others referred to it - the erosion of the green belt and the areas which are being encroached upon by planning. If I am right, the Minister admits that better planning control is needed. That is certainly welcome, and we look forward to hearing positive, concrete proposals with regard to the very important issue of the consultation process on area plans, et cetera.

Each Member brought up different points on this issue. Mr Douglas talked about the cost of injury (for example, for people traversing these areas), landlord liability and - looking at it from the landlord's point of view - compensation for the land. The consultation process will bring in all elements, and I certainly welcome that.

I hope that I have not missed out any Members in my summing up. Mr McLaughlin and Mr Mick Murphy mentioned the need to ensure that standards of protection are equivalent - not just within the United Kingdom, including England and Wales, but within this island, these islands and Europe in general. That is a very important point.

I appreciated Mr McLaughlin's point relating to the only Act that Nationalists supported.

Mr McLaughlin:

Succeeded in passing.

Ms Morrice:

Succeeded in passing.

I refer to the Wild Birds Protection Act of 1931. That is also an important point.

Mr Gibson mentioned the fact that this is a golden opportunity. I wholeheartedly agree that the consultation process is a golden opportunity.

I conclude by stating that this debate is a superb example of people power. People, spurred on by the lobbing groups and the non-governmental organisations that protect the environment, wrote to their Assembly Members; those Members acted, and the Minister has given a commitment. That is an excellent example of the system's working speedily, for we are almost there.

Mr Wells is, unfortunately, not in the Chamber, but I appreciated his point about having attempted, some 15 years ago, to table a motion of this type but having no support. I say to Mr Wells that it is marvellous that we have all caught up with him now and are able to support this motion so many years later.

I talked about people power. In this two-hour debate today we have witnessed the normalisation of politics in Northern Ireland. It is not just people power that has worked today, but also bird power.

Mr Deputy Speaker:

Before putting the Question I remind Members that the mover withdrew references to access and the right to roam.

Question put and agreed to.


That this Assembly calls on the Minister of the Environment to note the enactment of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and calls for equivalent protection to be extended to areas of special scientific interest in Northern Ireland.

The sitting was suspended at 12.27 pm.

On resuming (Mr Deputy Speaker [Mr McClelland] in the Chair) -




2.00 pm

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Has the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development asked to make a statement today on the BSE report from the European Union on Northern Ireland?

Mr Deputy Speaker:

I have no indication from the Minister that she intends to make a statement.


Punishment Beatings


Mr Deputy Speaker:

Before calling Dr Paisley to move the motion, I want to make a comment about timing. At the Business Committee meeting this afternoon it was agreed that there will be no time restriction on either the proposer of the motion or the proposer of the amendment, but, owing to the substantial number of people who have indicated that they wish to speak, the Committee agreed that the time limit for other Members will be five minutes.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

I beg to move

That this Assembly notes with grave concern the contents of the 'Informal Criminal Justice Systems in Northern Ireland' report on punishment beatings by paramilitary organisations; deplores and condemns the Government's inadequate response to the report; and calls on the Government to bring forward measures to ensure those responsible are made amenable to the law.

I very much resent the curtailment of this debate. This is a matter of grave importance. It is a running sore in both communities, and, since we meet on only two days a week, we should surely take as much time as possible to deal with issues with which people are concerned. This is a matter of maiming, killing and crucifying people, and the time has surely come when this Assembly should order its business and remember the strength of the motions that are going before this House and the subjects that they are dealing with. To ask me to deal with this matter in 15 minutes is ridiculous, but to say to my Colleagues that they will get five minutes is absolutely outrageous.

Mr Deputy Speaker:

There was no time restriction on yourself or the mover of the amendment. The other Members have five minutes.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

That is even more outrageous to the ordinary people in this Assembly. I will certainly do my best, because I want the Members to have an opportunity to speak, and I would like to hear what they have to say on this subject.

I welcome the report of the Economic and Social Research Council violence research project, but I think that most of the Members have got only the summary of the report. I understand from the Library that my office is the only one that asked for the full report.

Mr McCartney:

We asked for the full report but did not get it.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

They did not get it. That is terrible. It is a very lengthy report - I have it here in my hand. It is the 'Economic and Social Research Council End of Award Report' and gives a background to the whole history of the situation. It is made up of various papers, one of which has as part of its title "See no evil, hear no evil", which seems to be the attitude of the Secretary of State, the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister. Another paper deals with 'The "Deserving" Victims of Political Violence: "Punishment" Attacks in Northern Ireland'. A third is entitled 'Joined-Up Government: A Multi-Agency Response to Violence in Northern Ireland.' It is a very interesting document.

Of course, those who want to keep together the charade of the Government that we have do not want to read the material that is contained here.

Another paper is to do with 'An acceptable Level of Violence', and that is the argument we are being asked to listen to.

Last night I was speaking to a pressman from the BBC - that wonderful institution that we all have to tolerate with Christian love and gratitude for the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table, although we all have to pay licence fees to keep those employed there in a good job - and he was saying that there is not as much violence as there used to be.

Tell that to the young man who was crucified. Tell that to the parents who are mourning what has happened to their family. The invaluable documents, ' "An Acceptable Level of Violence" - Community Responses to Crime in Northern Ireland and South Africa' and 'The Return of "Captain Moonlight" - Informal Justice in Northern Ireland', should have been made available by the Library or put in Members' pigeonholes. A good deal of research has been carried out, but this information has not been considered by Members, through no fault of their own, because it was not made available to them.

Mr McCartney:

Does the hon Member agree that there seems to be a concerted policy of "dumbing down" any material, research or academic work that points to the Government's policy of turning a blind eye to the excesses of those parties fronting paramilitaries, who are retaining their weapons and who are responsible for this obscenity?

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

I agree, but I would go further. I am sure my hon Friend will agree that those who support this Government are those who got the mad men out of the jails and released them into the community. These people, who are experts in, and godfathers of, this type of crime, are behind these attacks which are being carried out across the Province. I welcome this report, which gives us vital, detailed information. No Member will be able to refute this report because they have not been able to read it.

Prof Knox did not pull any punches. He had a task to carry out, and he did not tailor the information in any way. He said it like it is, and this House would do well to listen to him. A misguided political agenda has brought this situation about. I would, in fact, go further and describe the political agenda as one which is criminal-supporting. This report exposes the failures of the Belfast Agreement. But, of course, if one dares to expose the failures, there will be just one line on the tongue of the Gentleman opposite and on the tongues of the Gentlemen here: "You are against peace". What an atrocious lie. To make this claim is to tell the mother who objects to her 14-year-old child being beaten up and tormented in her home that she is "against peace".

I suggest that every Member go to the Library and read the tragic poem contained in the last page of this report:

"Oh mother I am frightened, masked men broke down the door
They ran upstairs and beat your son; he's lying on the floor.
For anti-social behaviour - what can they mean?
Sure my brother he is just a child, he's only turned fourteen.
Don't cry my son; do not fear your broken bones will mend
But cursed is this country where violence knows no end."

That is a cry from the heart to which the Assembly should listen. I see in the amendment which is to be moved that police and those who support the policing arrangements in Northern Ireland are being held responsible. That is the sad and sorry situation we find ourselves in today.

In their Economic and Social Research Council Violence Research Project, Knox and Monaghan expose the folly behind present Government policy, saying

"for the British Government it is easier to 'see no evil, hear no evil' in relation to this violence."

The report states that the parties who negotiated the Belfast Agreement all signed up to the Mitchell principles of peace and democracy. Paragraph 20 of the Mitchell report of 1996 stated

"we join the governments, religious leaders and many others condemning punishment killings and beatings."

And then what do they do? They turn a blind eye to them. A senior officer of the British Army told me the other day that each night the Army makes a log of such events but is told that they will not be published in any press. The figures are logged officially, but without publication. So what the Army has found out about beatings is never reported. We read reports from the RUC, but we never see the Army reports.

These beatings contribute to the fear that those who have used violence to pursue political objectives in the past will do it again in the future. Such attacks have no place in any lawful society, and to ask the people of Northern Ireland to agree to an "acceptable level of violence" is an insult to people living in this part of the United Kingdom. No level of violence is acceptable. It must cease forthwith.

This research paper also reveals why the Government have failed to deal effectively with these attacks. The Government do not want to listen to anyone who criticises and rightly condemns what is happening. As a result, when a politician does criticise he is told "You are just playing politics and that is the party line." When academics take time to research and collate the relevant statistics, they too are criticised. The Deputy First Minister and the First Minister himself made an effort to play this report down.

In his report, Prof Knox criticised the former Secretary of State on a vital point. She maintained that the status of the ceasefires was a judgement she alone had to make - even though the criminals broke the ceasefires and used guns. By way of excuse, I heard one of the Ministers say "Well, we have not had any breach of the ceasefire because the ceasefire is not to do with stabbing - it has to do with shooting." These criminals have been using their revolvers and their guns now for some time, but that has made no difference. The Secretary of State is not the person to say whether a ceasefire has been broken - the general public witnesses it and can see that it has.

Mr McCartney:

Does the hon Member not agree that it is even more despicable for officials of the Northern Ireland Office to dismiss murders such as that of Charles Bennett as matters of internal housekeeping which do not constitute a breach of a ceasefire?

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

We have come to a Mafia situation. Mafia chiefs are respected and are told "You are in charge of keeping your house in order, and we can assure you that nothing will be done about it." That shows that we have come to an all-time low in this country we love.

2.15 pm

The Secretary of State is the sole arbiter on breaches of ceasefires, which means that Loyalists and Republicans can take the actions they do because they know that neither they nor their patronage will come to any harm politically.

Whom did the Prime Minister meet when he was over here last week? He did not meet any of the parties opposed to the agreement, but he did hold talks at Hillsborough. Whom did he talk to? He talked to representatives of the people who are carrying out the genocide on the Shankill Road and other areas. The First Minister saw to it that the leader of the Ulster Democratic Party - I think that is what they call themselves - was in the Forum. So the patronage goes on, and the killings will go on until oxygen is taken away from the terrorists and they can no longer continue with their activities.

My hon Friend Mr McCartney made the point that conceding that paramilitaries can control and brutalise their own communities with a political end in mind is a de facto acceptance by the Government that there is an acceptable level of violence and that these people can take the law into their own hands.

This research is an indictment of the Belfast Agreement. Today we are bringing to the bar of accountability the people who are responsible and those who have given them incentives. The blame rests not only on the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister and their supporters but also on their masters and the Secretary of State. They cannot, Pilate-like, wash their hands of this matter. It will not be going away.

What are the facts? The facts are very serious indeed, but, rather than go over the statistics, I want to concentrate on the increased activity. In the past nine days alone four 15-year-old schoolboys have been attacked by self-appointed punishment squads, both Republican and Loyalist. Over the same period four more teenagers have either been shot or beaten by squads intent on tightening their grip on their turf, just prior to what is envisaged as yet another critical moment for the future of the peace process.

RUC figures for January 2000 show a total of 12 paramilitary punishment beatings and one shooting compared with seven shootings and seven assaults by the middle of last week - and we are not even at the end of January. In 2000, 86 punishment shootings were carried out by Loyalists and 50 by Republicans. During the same 12-month period punishment beatings by Loyalists totalled 72, and those by Republicans 54. A small number of instances involved the new crucifixion shooting, where a victim is shot through both hands and both feet. This type of shooting makes it difficult for a victim to return to normal life as he could have done with the traditional kneecapping punishment. This is the situation we face. This is the situation that the Assembly needs to deal with this afternoon, and there can be no red herrings about policing, because it has nothing to do with policing.

This is to do with those who direct the forces of the law. If they receive reports about what is happening and who is responsible and close their eye to those reports, they are involving the forces of the Crown in wasting public money on investigating crime. When the Secretary of State and public representatives are presented with the crime, they close their eyes. There are also people so intent on boasting up the charade that is the so-called peace process that they are prepared to excuse punishment beatings. They say nothing about them, and when the issue is debated they remain silent.

The Belfast Agreement states that the report and the proposed reform of the RUC will solve nothing in the short term. Let us face up to it. It is not a matter of whether or not you get Patten. We have a Government who will not put down political violence. They want to get the Unionist majority, who are opposed now to the agreement and are rock solid in their opposition to it, to lower the flag and compromise. Mr Ken Maginnis, the spokesperson for the Official Unionist Party, made more concessions. We were told that they never made any concessions, but now he says "We can make no more concessions." There will be no withdrawal of resistance by the majority of the Unionist people, for they know that if they have this in the green, what will they have in the dry? If this so-called peace process continues, and continues to achieve its aims, we will be plunged into far greater violence. The IRA will come out for the last great shove to push us, in this bicentennial year, out of the Union all together.

Therefore this is a life and death situation. Those who want to colour the situation politically are wrong. We must face up to the fact that this is happening to our people on both sides of the religious divide. Either we have to be their custodians or guardians, or we should shut up. And I am not prepared to shut up on the issue. It must be exposed. Something has to be done.

I regret that I have gone over the 15 minutes that I tried to keep to. However, I had some preliminary things to say and I have said them, and I tried to say them as quickly as possible so that all who want can take part in the debate. Again, not for myself, for you told me, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I could speak for the whole two hours - not that I would think of doing such a dreadful thing. If I were a Back-Bencher, however, I would resent being only permitted five minutes to discuss matters that have not only disgusted my constituency but have led to the removal of people from their homes.

Mr Deputy Speaker:

I have received one amendment, which is published in the Marshalled List.

Ms Gildernew:

I beg to move the following amendment: Delete all after "organisations" and add

"and calls on the Government to address this issue through the creation of an accountable policing service that has the support of all communities."

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. To date, the response of both the Government and the community to crime and the damage done to our communities by antisocial elements has been totally inadequate. Punishment beatings do not make communities any safer. They are a response to a lack of effective action from an accountable and acceptable policing service. They are a response to a policing deficit. The University of Ulster's Economic and Social Research Council report highlights the strong support that there is for alternatives in the absence of a legitimate policing service.

Rising levels of antisocial behaviour in our communities are having a devastating effect. That is fact. In Nationalist and Republican areas the RUC is not dealing with this problem. That is fact. The formal criminal justice system has failed. That is fact. No one can condone punishment beatings. They do not make our community safer. The RUC itself has been engaged in attacks on our communities, and it is also responsible for punishment beatings. As recently as last week five people, including a Sinn Féin councillor, were badly assaulted in West Tyrone. Two weeks ago, my party Colleague Gerry Kelly was awarded substantial damages because a police officer assaulted him. Time and time again, members of the RUC have been found not to be amenable to the law. That was apparent in the recent case of Davy Adams, who was severely beaten by the RUC and awarded substantial damages. No legal action was taken against those in the RUC who were responsible. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

There is a culture of impunity in the RUC. That is another reason why accountability is imperative. The link between RUC inactivity and antisocial behaviour in Nationalist communities is well known, if not widely reported. Nationalists are all too aware that the RUC is prepared to allow criminals to operate freely in exchange for their acting as informants.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Surely this debate and amendment have been moved on the issue of punishment beatings. I have never seen any evidence to suggest that any of these so-called punishment beatings were carried out by RUC members.

Mr Deputy Speaker:

Please continue, Ms Gildernew.

Ms Gildernew:

The RUC, with all its surveillance, intelligence-gathering equipment, guns and plastic bullets, has had every opportunity to demonstrate that it is able to tackle, and is committed to tackling, crime in Nationalist areas. It has failed to do this. Known criminals are apprehended by the RUC and frequently released without charge. That was the case with those involved in a series of pharmacy robberies in West Belfast. Indeed, antisocial criminals are returned -

Mr Weir:

Will the Member give way?

Ms Gildernew:

No. Indeed, antisocial criminals are returned to cause havoc and pain in Nationalist areas when they are released into our communities. That is due to lenient sentencing, suspended sentences, and the fact that the RUC has intervened on their behalf in exchange for their agreement to work as RUC informers. The RUC agenda in Nationalist communities is all too clear. It wishes to create a network of informers and cause destabilisation.

What can we do to end punishment beatings? We need to create a new police service that is democratically accountable and acceptable to the local community. That is not the RUC. The RUC is not accountable, or acceptable, to Nationalists and Republicans. The RUC is not tackling the spiralling levels of antisocial crime, drug dealing and so-called joyriding. The RUC is encouraging this increase in antisocial crime by its attitude and response to Nationalist and Republican communities. The creation of an accountable policing service, with the support of all communities, is being obstructed. Supporters of progress should recognise that everyone wants to achieve that goal.

It is not merely Republicans, Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Irish Government and the Catholic Church that need to see progress on this issue. Everyone has a stake in the creation of a new policing service. If we are to stamp out antisocial behaviour, and the responses to it, which do little to improve community safety, then the creation of an accountable and acceptable policing service is necessary. Unfortunately, the Mandelson policing Act has gutted the Patten Report. There is a real need for this deficit to be addressed otherwise we will again be left with a policing deficit.

I would like to pay tribute to those in the community who are working to tackle crime through non-violent means. These people recognise that the RUC and the formal justice system have failed our communities. Restorative justice projects, such as Community Restorative Justice (CRJ) and others, have demonstrated a real commitment to tackling these problems. Many people are freely giving their time and energy to make their communities safer. They are working to create new alternatives to punishment beatings, the failed formal criminal justice system and the RUC. Sinn Féin totally supports CRJ. We need to see a greater commitment from Government to increase resources for these initiatives.

I ask Members to support the Sinn Féin amendment calling on the Government to address this issue through the creation of an accountable policing service that has the support of all communities. Go raibh maith agat.

2.30 pm

Mr Beggs:

I support the motion. Punishment beatings are one of the greatest abuses of human rights in Northern Ireland today. The reality of this barbaric activity can be seen in this week's 'Sunday Times'. The Provisional IRA is reported to have shot a 17-year-old boy for breaking windows. That is the reality of what is happening in our society. I consider the Sinn Féin amendment to be simply a way of continuing to play with words. Unionists want to see actual deeds, not fancy words. I will be opposing the amendment, given its source and objective.

I am also aware of brutal attacks in my own constituency by Loyalists. There is a problem in both communities. Some of these attacks involve baseball bats studded with nails. It is unbelievable what has been happening. These are irreversible human tragedies, leaving many young victims scarred and disabled for life. There is also a huge and unnecessary financial burden on the Health Service. It has enough broken bones on its waiting lists without creating others. The Health Minister, Bairbre de Brún, has refused to provide me with figures on punishment beatings that have been treated by the Health Service, or even to report the number of admissions. There is a huge financial cost, as well as the personal tragedies involved, and that should be reported.

I welcome the fact that the RUC is now providing accurate figures on punishment beatings that have been formally reported to the police. The figures are available on the RUC's web site and can be stood over. It is a shame that in the past this information had to be collated by volunteers and charities. I accept that many people suffering attacks will still not appear on these lists. Some people still do not go to the police, fearing further punishment.

There are worrying trends. In particular I look at the figures starting in 1995, when there were three shootings involved in paramilitary attacks. This has now risen to 115 - 75 by Loyalist groups and 40 by Republican groups. That is not acceptable in any society. At the same time there are still large numbers of brutal paramilitary- style physical attacks and beatings - up until November, 62 by Loyalists and 44 by Republican groups.

What would we be saying if this were happening in some Third-World state or banana republic? This is happening in Northern Ireland today, which is in the Western World and claims to be a Christian, civilised society. It is continuing, and will continue, until Nationalist and some Loyalist groups show leadership in their own communities. When are they going to accept that they too have a responsibility for this outrageous behaviour, as long as they hold back full support for the police? Silence is sometimes encouraging punishment attacks.

Restorative justice has been advocated earlier. It is criticised in this report as often being synonymous with the punishment attacks themselves. Indeed, there has been specific press criticism of the fact that in some areas the former judge of the kangaroo court is now the chief mentor in restorative justice. What people are being offered is "Agree with some community service or we will blow your knees off." That is not real restorative justice. There is a clear correlation between political events and punishment beatings in Northern Ireland - the Knox Report shows this. Restorative justice must be clearly linked to the rule of law if it is to be done properly. It must be linked to the proper criminal justice system. It is not a way to legitimise kangaroo courts or informal administration of justice. The criminal justice system itself must be seen to be effective in dealing with petty crime and antisocial behaviour.

In the context of human rights, punishment beatings breach the right to life, the prohibition on torture, the right to liberty and security and the right to a fair trial - "no punishment beating without trial". Punishment beatings constitute the most significant breach of human rights in Northern Ireland today.


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