Leiston: Concern over nuclear police responding to incidents

ACTIVITIES of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary in the Leiston area have been criticised by a member of a community liaison group.

The CNC comprises officers trained to handle firearms and its primary function is to help protect the security of the Sizewell nuclear site, especially its highly radioactive materials, from the terrorist threat.

However, officers also help out their Suffolk police colleagues on various occasions, including incidents needing an early armed response.

But Bill Howard, who represents Leiston Town Council, told the quarterly meeting of the Sizewell Stakeholder Group that CNC officers had also got involved in minor incidents in the area and he objected.

He told Inspector Steve Foster, the CNC’s operational unit commander at Sizewell, that unlike Suffolk Constabulary, which was answerable to the Suffolk Police Authority, including county councillors, and ultimately to the Home Office: “There is no democratic input into your constabulary.”

This was disputed by Insp Foster who said the CNC was controlled by a body which was split evenly between independent members and nuclear industry appointees.

“Officers are bound by a disciplinary code and an independent complaints commissioner.

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“They are no different to a Home Office police officer – they have the same powers and privileges,” he said.

Insp Foster said the CNC’s routine powers extended to a five kilometre radius of the nuclear site but officers were able to mount pursuits outside this area in special circumstances.

He said the CNC worked closely with Suffolk Constabulary and the two had regular meetings.

Inspector Chris Gilmore, head of Leiston Police, said there was a great deal of communication between the two police forces.

“Luckily in this part of the county we have got the capability close by. We don’t use them routinely,” Insp Gilmore added.

Sizewell Stakeholder Group is a community group that was set up to improve the flow of information about the Sizewell power station site.

It includes representatives of local councils and organisations but excludes anti nuclear and environment groups.

The SSG has come in for criticism over the past five years about the way it works and an alleged non-curious, pro-nuclear majority.

It is currently consulting on a proposed new constitution.

Richard Smith, SSG chairman, said that a questionnaire about the workings of the SSG had been sent to 20 local groups, with 15 replies and a “reasonably favourable” response.

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