Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000

The Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 (c 32) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The act renamed the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).[1] It also created the Northern Ireland Policing Board and District Police Partnerships.[2] The act was designed to gain cross-community support for law enforcement in Northern Ireland with several initiatives included in the act, including a change of oath of office and a 50:50 recruitment policy for Protestants and Roman Catholics.

Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act to make provision about policing in Northern Ireland; and for connected purposes.
Citation2000 c 32
Territorial extentNorthern Ireland
Royal assent23 November 2000
Other legislation
Amended byPolice (Northern Ireland) Act 2003 Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2011
Status: Current legislation
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

The Bill for this Act received its first reading in the House of Commons on 16 May 2000.[3]


Royal Ulster Constabulary badge

The Royal Ulster Constabulary had been responsible for law enforcement in Northern Ireland since being split from the all-Ireland Royal Irish Constabulary before the partition of Ireland. During The Troubles, they had been accused by nationalists of having a unionist bias against the nationalist minority.[4] Despite this, they had a reputation as an efficient anti-terrorism police force and were collectively awarded the George Cross by Queen Elizabeth II.[5]

Following the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 to end hostilities in Northern Ireland, a report was set up led by the former Governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten to look into giving policing in Northern Ireland cross-community consent.[6] The majority of the report from the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland (known as the Patten Report) suggested substituting the Royal Ulster Constabulary for a more representative force with a change of name and reduction of numbers. The Police (Northern Ireland) Act was intended to fulfill this report though it was amended when going through Parliament.[2][6]

Name of the forceEdit

The first clause of the act covered the name of the police force. The Patten Report originally suggested naming the force the "Northern Ireland Police Service". The government of the United Kingdom adapted the proposal and put forward for the force to be named "Police Service of Northern Ireland" instead as they disliked the acronym of NIPS.[2] Unionists wanted to retain the royal title in the name of the new police force, with the Ulster Unionist Party leader and First Minister of Northern Ireland, David Trimble citing not many British police forces had a royal title and felt that the heritage of the Royal Ulster Constabulary was being ignored.[7] During the debate on the bill, MPs cited that there were several organisations in the Republic of Ireland, such as the Royal Irish Yacht Club and the Royal Irish Academy, that retained a royal title without comment.[8] In the House of Lords, the former leader of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, Lord Fitt also requested that the Royal Ulster Constabulary retain its name.[9] Following pressure from the Conservative Party, the government compromised and the Police (Northern Ireland) Act decreed the official name of the force to be the "Police Service of Northern Ireland (incorporating the Royal Ulster Constabulary)".[10] The act also provided for the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Foundation to be established for "marking the sacrifices and honouring the achievements of the Royal Ulster Constabulary".[11]

Police authorityEdit

A new Northern Ireland Policing Board would be created under the act to replace the Police Authority of Northern Ireland.[12] The Patten Report suggested having political representation on the board with local divisions corresponding to Northern Irish district councils being appointed with full administrative oversight.[13] The Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams wanted the Patten Report's suggestions to be fully implemented.[14] However following unionist concerns that the proposed districts would give members of the IRA too much influence over the police, the proposals were watered down to allow Chief Constables to challenge decisions made by the board.[2][15] Sinn Féin initially refused to take their seats on the Policing Board as a result.[1] They would eventually do so in 2007.[16]


The act included a provision regarding recruitment for new police officers. It stated that the force's size should be reduced by 4,500 officers over ten years.[17] It was felt that the force was too large for a peacetime service.[18] A generous severance scheme was set up to compensate any officers who left the police as a result.[12] At the time of the act's passage, the Royal Ulster Constabulary had a 9:1 ratio of Protestant to Roman Catholic officers.[2] The act provided that recruitment would be done on a 50:50 basis to gradually lead towards a police force that was 50 per cent Protestant and 50 per cent Catholic.[1] This proposal in the Patten Report was made in the hope that the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) would repeal Rule 21 which prohibited members of British police forces from playing Gaelic games.[19] The GAA eventually did this in 2001.[20] The act also followed on from a policy change that stated constables would no longer have to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen in 1997.[21]

In 2011, the British government voted to repeal the 50:50 recruitment requirement when Catholic membership numbered 30 per cent of the police. Nationalist politicians believed it was a successful policy however unionists stated that the policy had discriminated against Protestants.[22] Calls have been made by Catholic clergymen for the policy to be restored until the force was 50:50.[23]

Miscellaneous provisionsEdit

The act provided for cross-border support with the police of the Republic of Ireland, Garda Síochána, with the opportunities for PSNI officers to go on secondment with the Garda and vice versa.[24] The act also stated that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland had the power to decide the PSNI's uniform and flags. Their new uniform retained the rifle green colour of the Royal Ulster Constabulary but included name tags, against the wishes of the Police Federation.[25] The Secretary of State would also be able to rule if the Union Jack would be able to fly over PSNI police stations as they had under the Royal Ulster Constabulary.[26]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "'New era' as NI police change name". BBC News. 4 November 2001. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Controversial name change for RUC". BBC News. 19 January 2000. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  3. ^ Hansard (House of Commons). Vol 350. Col 161.
  4. ^ "RUC 'biased over school stand-off'". Telegraph. 20 September 2001. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  5. ^ Paterson, John (12 April 2000). "Queen honours RUC with George Cross". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Police chief's plea over Patten report". BBC News. 8 September 1999. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  7. ^ Tran, Mark (19 January 2000). "Mandelson confirms sweeping changes and new name for RUC". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  8. ^ "Orders Of The Day". Hansard. 6 June 2000. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  9. ^ Kallenbach, Michael (24 October 2000). "Peers say Ulster police should remain 'Royal'". Telegraph. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  10. ^ Sparrow, Andrew; Sharrock, David (8 July 2000). "RUC title lives on in victory for Tories". Telegraph. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  11. ^ "Royal Ulster Constabulary GC Foundation" (PDF). Ulster University. 2007. Retrieved 4 May 2020. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ a b "RUC crest dropped from cars". BBC News. 6 March 2000. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  13. ^ Mullin, John (26 August 1999). "RUC: no badge, no oath, no Queen". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  14. ^ "Adams wants RUC reforms 'in full'". BBC News. 18 January 2000. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  15. ^ Shearing, Clifford (14 November 2000). "Comment: Patten report". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  16. ^ Peterkin, Tom (28 January 2007). "After 86 years, Sinn Fein supports police". Telegraph. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  17. ^ "RUC Reform: What the act says". BBC News. 23 November 2000. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  18. ^ McGarry, John; O'Leary, Brendan (1999). "Policing Northern Ireland". Ulster University. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  19. ^ "Patten and the cops". The Economist. 9 September 1999. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  20. ^ Breheny, Martin (19 November 2001). "Rule 21 goes quietly into history books". Irish Independent. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  21. ^ Millar, Frank (2 December 1997). "RUC recruits no longer to swear oath to the queen". Irish Times. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  22. ^ "Police 50-50 recruiting system is to end". BBC News. 28 March 2011. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  23. ^ "PSNI recruitment: Catholic primate urges return to 50:50 recruitment". BBC News. 15 December 2019. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  24. ^ "Garda Síochána (Police Co-Operation) Act 2003". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  25. ^ "Name badges part of new uniforms". BBC News. 27 March 2002. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  26. ^ "RUC Bill changes unveiled". BBC News. 6 June 2000. Retrieved 4 May 2020.

External linksEdit