PLATFORM: Law and Order Not Just a Job for the Police; Northern Ireland Secretary of State Dr John Reid

Article excerpt

Byline: Dr John Reid

THERE are phrases in Northern Ireland that slip so easily into day-to-day conversation that the ideas behind them are made to appear almost acceptable. 'Recreational rioting', 'victimless crime', 'ordinary decent criminal'.

Rioting is not a game.

No crime is victimless.

And there are no decent criminals, 'ordinary' or otherwise.

It is ordinary decent people's lives that are made miserable by rioting.

They are the victims of crime and they are the ones preyed on by criminals. We must, of course keep a sense of proportion in this: overall, Northern Ireland is the most law-abiding place in the United Kingdom.

But I know that is little consolation to those who have been the victims of crime. In Northern Ireland, for understandable reasons, security and law and order have become intertwined - as if they were the same thing. They are not.

Law and order is not just about waging war against terrorism. It is also about recognising and demanding civilised behaviour of each other. Law and order is not negotiable; it is an essential basis for any civilised society, in Northern Ireland as elsewhere.

For my part, I am absolutely committed to seeing it asserted in Northern Ireland so that we can develop a healthy, law- abiding society in which everyone benefits from the social, economic and political opportunities that the Agreement promises.

Apart from anything else, unless we can show continual improvement in the daily lives of ordinary men and women, confidence in the future will be sapped.

That's why I am determined to combat crime from what- ever source, across the board. I want to make sure that all aspects of the criminal justice system are working to that end and to maximum effect.

That is why I have convened a Law and Order Action Group which will bring together the key players at the highest level to co-ordinate the drive against crime.

Already, the Organised Crime Task Force has shown how effective co-ordinated action can be. …