Police from England, Scotland and Wales could become a permanent feature of the PSNI’s patrols in the north of Ireland as an alternative to the return of the British Army, it has emerged.PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott has said he has been forced to rely on British police reinforcements on a regular basis as a result of financial constraints.Baggott called in more than 1,000 “back-ups” from British constabularies this summer to help local recruits cope with the loyalist marching season.
On Friday he told the Policing Board that he may require such support to be “camped here” on an ongoing basis due to budget limitations.
“If we get to the point of reducing numbers, as I suspect we may if the budget continues the way it is, then I will have mutual aid camped here,” he told board members at a meeting in Omagh, County Tyrone.
“Now I don’t want to do that and neither do you - that’s not good for Northern Ireland.”
Speaking later, Baggott claimed that the deployment of officers from British forces had prevented a breakdown in society at the hands of loyalists.
But he still denied that the loyalist paramilitary UVF have “come off ceasefire”.
Despite shooting a 24-year-old woman and orchestrating some of the worst disorder seen in the North in over a decade, the head of the PSNI again claimed the upsurge of loyalist violence in 2013 was due to “some local crime gangs in east Belfast”
Nevertheless, British reinforcements had been the key to prevent the Six Counties “falling over the precipice” into anarchy, he said.
The number of riot police had doubled and dozens of new armoured vehicles and other equipment had been received, but he still had to ask for additional forces “to come over here and support us if things got really tough”.
“Now we couldn’t have predicted where we would believe if we hadn’t put those steps in place just in case, then we would have fallen over the precipice.
“We had to make some really tough decisions at the start of the year - because of the scale of the (flag) protests we couldn’t deal with everything.
“We have 550 parades on the Twelfth [of July] and genuinely we did look at the fact that the year before we didn’t have any real contingency.”
Despite a heavy marketing campaign involving Catholic schoolchildren and the GAA sports association, the PSNI remains an overwhelmingly Protestant police force. Baggott insisted a permanent garrison of British police could prevent a return of the hated British Army to street patrols.
“The [British] army’s gone and I’ve made it very clear the army won’t be back,” he said.
The technology used by Britain's intelligence agencies is "out of control", former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown has warned.
He said surveillance should be targeted against individuals or groups, not against "the whole nation" as recent operations exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden were.
In an interview with The Guardian, which has revealed details of the activities of British eavesdropping agency GCHQ based on documents disclosed by US intelligence whistleblower Mr Snowden, Lord Ashdown defended the right of the state to intercept communications.
Recalling seeing spies opening letters with the steam from boiling kettles in the 1960s, he said the state should intercept communications "only in cases where there is good evidence to believe the nation's security is being threatened, or arguably, when a really serious crime has been committed".
It needed to be "targeted on an individual and not classes of individuals or, as at the moment, the whole nation" and ought to be sanctioned by a third party, preferably by a judge or, if not, a member of the Cabinet.
He added: "We need a proper inquiry to decide what liberties and privacies ought to be accorded in the new interconnected world, and what powers of intrusion ought to be given to the state. The old laws that applied in the age of the steaming kettle will no longer do. The old protections are no longer good enough."
Lord Ashdown said the Guardian's reporting of Mr Snowden's leaked National Security Agency (NSA) files " had raised this important issue to the point where sensible people understand this inquiry is now necessary".
He added: "People today seem more casual about their privacy than they used to be. They don't seem to mind when their privacy is breached when they use Google, Facebook and other social media."
But the peer said he hoped this had not "changed the public's attitude towards the state's power to intrude into their privacy".
He said that he was "frightened by the erosion of our liberties" and attacked Labour's record on the issue in office, including the "disgraceful" Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.
There was a "habit of politicians who are lazy about the preservation of our liberties or don't mind seeing them destroyed, to play an old game," he said.
"They tell frightened citizens, 'If you give me some of your liberties, I will make you safer'."
Lord Ashdown said the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), which provides parliamentary scrutiny of Britain's spies, was "past its time".
The body, chaired by Tory former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, was "wholly incapable of coping" with the new circumstances.
Former GCHQ director Sir David Omand told The Guardian he was in favour of an inquiry and thought it would be wrong to "dismiss the idea of a royal commission out of hand".
But he said the ISC had to be given the chance to complete its own inquiry into the work of the UK's intelligence agencies GCHQ, the Security Service (MI5) and Secret Intelligence Service (MI6).
He said: "Much now depends first upon the ISC and whether their latest inquiry can rise above the current clamour to a calm and dispassionate examination of the capabilities needed to keep our people safe and secure, and at the same time, how public confidence can be maintained that under no circumstances could these powerful capabilities be used in ways that parliament did not intend."