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Guide to How Public Order Policing Works in Northern Ireland

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The Committee on the Administration of Justice published a guide to how public order policing should work in Northern Ireland. In common with all aspects of policing, the PSNI adopts a human rights approach in relation to planning, operations and accountability for public order situations. This guide goes through the relevant standards to create a coherent narrative which is designed to identify decision points and the mechanisms through which the police are accountable for their decisions and actions.

How the freedoms of expression and assembly are protected, facilitated and regulated are measures of the condition of the rule of law and its reliance on human rights standards in any society. In Northern Ireland, given our history and contemporary reality, the issue takes on particular importance. In a divided society, the benefits of a human rights approach include the fact that it provides an over-arching framework that transcends the particular perspective at any time of the two main communities. By making clear the human rights basis that should, and is claimed to underlay public order policing, it is hoped to help prevent this issue from threatening community relations and assist positively in a consensual approach to parading and protests. 

The twin pillars of a human rights approach are clear standards and effective accountability mechanisms that ensure they are met. This guide identifies the standards and accountability mechanisms that apply in general, before a public event, on the day and after the event. These are presented at two levels – in a handy tabular form and in a more detailed exposition.