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Police warn over security for hard Irish border

Police do not have the numbers to protect a hard Irish border, a representative body has warned. Planning for a no-deal Brexit needs to begin urgently as it would cost tens of millions of pounds to secure the porous 300-mile (483km) frontier, the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) said. All sides in the discussions between the EU and UK are united in opposition to a heavily-militarised border that characterised arrangements during the long Northern Ireland conflict. Federation chairman Mark Lindsay said his members would be “sitting ducks” for terrorists if they had to regularly and predictably protect other agencies like customs officers at crossing points from Northern Ireland into the Republic.

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland said the force did not have enough officers to secure a hard border (Paul Faith/PA)

He said: “Numbers are already painfully thin on the ground and, if hundreds were required along a porous border, the situation would inevitably become intolerable and unmanageable. “No-one wants a ‘hard’ border, but if there the politicians fail to reach an accord or compromise, it seems something that is a lot less relaxed than what we currently enjoy will be the consequence.” The meandering frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic encompasses largely remote areas and contains around 275 crossing points. Mr Lindsay claimed there would have to be a very significant increase in the number of officers in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to secure it. “Imagine, therefore, what would happen in communities all over Northern Ireland if officers were to be transferred to do border security duties alongside other agencies such as HM Customs & Excise ? Cities and towns would see officer numbers decimated.

“Contingency planning has to begin as a matter of urgency.” The Federation has been calling for an increase in the number of officers for years. Mr Lindsay said the present below-par total of fewer than 6,700 was already a few hundred below what Chief Constable George Hamilton said he required.

In October the PSNI launched a new recruitment drive and said they were hoping to sign up 300 new officers. Next year some 730 are eligible to retire – 11% of the workforce . A further 331 can retire over the following two years, the Federation disclosed.

Shrewsbury security boss guilty of 59000 VAT fraud

Karl Francis, 59, of Prestbury Green, Shrewsbury, pleaded guilty to six charges of falsely charging VAT, while running KSS Security. The offences took place between May 2011 and October 2014. In total Shrewsbury Crown Court was told that Francis had charged Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury School and The Forestry Commission around 59,700 of VAT, which was not paid to HM Revenue and Customs.

Francis company provided security staff who were responsible for locking up buildings and patrolling. Philip Beardwell, prosecuting, said the matters had come to light after one of Francis employees was found to be working without the right authority. He said: When working at Shrewsbury school the man was approached and they found he was not authorised to have the appropriate licence to be working on site that day and he received a formal police caution for that,

Francis company was responsible for a number of sites including Raven Meadows Car Park, Shrewsbury s park & ride facilities, Shrewsbury Bus Station, and event and evening security at Shrewsbury School.

The court heard that he had been registered for VAT but had de-registered in April 2011. Mr Beardwell said that Francis had continued to invoice the organisations for work, including VAT, but had not paid the appropriate amount to HM Revenue and Customs. The court was told that in a police interview Francis had said that another man had been responsible for the accounts.

However, Mr Beardwell said: Attempts were made to trace him but he was never found. Anthony Scott, mitigating, told Judge Peter Barrie that Francis suffers from respiratory problems and mental health issues. Sentencing Judge Barrie said: I have to deal with you for six counts in relation to three clients from whom your business quite deliberately charged VAT when the business was not registered for VAT so the money collected, which should have been seen as tax, was not accounted for by the revenue and was kept by your business.

Having previously been registered for VAT you must obviously have understood how wrong it was to conduct the business in this way.

The total amount is not far short of 60,000 which is a significant loss to the revenue, accrued over a significant period of time.

However, Judge Barrie said that despite the seriousness of the crime he was not going to send Francis to jail because of his health. He said: Because of ill health it would be disproportionate to impose a sentence of immediate custody. Francis was sentenced to 21 months in prison, suspended for two years.