There are serious concerns around the regulation of the PSNI input into Access NI checks following revelations of attempts to recruit a loyalist community activist as an informant, issuing threat of “ensuring you never coach children’s football again if you do not work for us” as a caveat.
A loyalist community activist has spoken of his horror at a PSNI ‘sensitive intelligence’ assessment attached to his Access NI check. The individual- who did not want to be named due to fears for his own safety- said “I have been involved in coaching a cross community children’s football team in the East Belfast area for some time. I had hoped to extend this work into attaining coaching qualifications and getting some work coaching in local schools, but I have been shocked to learn that the PSNI have released so called ‘intelligence’ as part of my access NI check, which has precluded me from any work in local schools.”
Prior to the well respected local football coach applying for an access NI certificate, he had undertaken voluntary community work with the Exit community project which had brought him into contact with former loyalist prisoners and ex combatants. During this period the 28 year old was approached by the PSNI and asked to become a confidential Police informant.
Upon refusing to engage with the plain clothes officers, the man was warned that he would never be allowed to coach children again. The officers then chillingly warned “we can, and will, destroy your life.” The encounter was reported and logged with a local Solictor.
There have been recent revelations of MI5 intelligence being included in Access NI checks. The Irish News reported in November that former Sinn Fein member- who have left the party over their support for policing- Sean Montgomery had lost employment opportunities over unsupported intelligence included within the Access NI checks. Mr Montgomery had no terrorist convictions.
It appears that both loyalists and republicans who are not perceived to be ‘on message’ or who refuse to allow themselves to be recruited as paid informants are having their employment opportunities scuppered by unscrupulous fanciful ‘intelligence’ assessments being included in police checks that potential employers would ask to see.
There is much concern within the loyalist community that once again there is a two-tier approach to dealing with these matters, whereby those who are viewed as being cheerleaders for the peace process sail through such checks, but anyone viewed as a political obstacle has unsupported intelligence attached to their Access NI checks.
If the PSNI hold evidence of criminal wrongdoing then they can arrest and charge any individual. The absence of any such charges makes it difficult to see how the PSNI can justify including unsupported intelligence within Access NI checks, intelligence that conveniently appears only for those who aren’t singing of the right political hymn sheet.