Unionist Voice can today expose the secret PSNI briefings that created and perpetuated the allegations of threats being issued by the UVF to families in Cantrell close. A Freedom of Information request has revealed there was seven briefings provided to politicians and one authorised media briefing.
At the time of the incident the East Belfast Community Initiative expressed concerns that the PSNI had given false briefings to the media and politicians, in a crude attempt to provide justification to direct paramilitary Task Force resources towards east Belfast loyalists.
The first allegation of UVF involvement came from Sinn Fein, following a meeting with the PSNI. Therefore it appears that the genesis of the false allegations stemmed from either Sinn Fein, or the PSNI.
Sinn Fein claimed publicly that they had been informed by the PSNI that the UVF were involved, yet the PSNI initially made clear that they did not know where the threat had come from. It was only after Sinn Fein’s whipping up of the allegations, which they claim stemmed from the PSNI, that the PSNI changed course and blamed the UVF.
A Freedom of Information request has revealed that between 22 September and 3 October 2017 that the PSNI provided seven briefings to politicians on the issue. This was all prior to Chief Constable George Hamilton’s public statement on 5 October. So if the Chief Constable was not sure of his assessment prior to the 5 October, then what were the PSNI telling politicians during their secret briefings between 22 September and 3 October?
It has further been revealed that the PSNI requested approval to provide a media briefing in relation to threat messages delivered to Cantrell Close on one occasion between 22 September and 3 October 2017 on one occasion. This briefing was provided by Chief Superintendent Chris Noble on 28 September 2017.
Given that ‘Police sources’ were quoted on a number of occasions subsequent to this date, it is clear that there were unauthorised media briefings by PSNI officers.
The information gleaned via a Freedom of Information request raises serious questions for the PSNI, particularly around potential unauthorised briefings to the media and what information they were feeding politicians, prior to- by their own admission- they had come to any decision as to who to blame.