Chairman: Lord MacLean

Report of The Billy Wright Inquiry

Chapter 5

Structure and Background of the Main Organisations

The Royal Ulster Constabulary

The Departments of Special Branch


By the time of the murder of Billy Wright, the Warner Recommendations appear to have been implemented, so reference will be made here to the structure of SB as it was post-Warner. E1 was an administrative department; E2 dealt with training; E3, part of the new IMG, included the desks which handled intelligence about paramilitary activity. These were known as E3A in the case of the republican groups, and E3B in the case of loyalist groups. In addition to this there was Central Desk, formerly E9A, which concentrated on running ‘lifestyle’ operations, intended to build up an intelligence picture of different paramilitary groups and individual members of them. It also focused on high-level strategic targets, particularly within the PIRA. Its work was directed by the Intelligence Review Committee (IRC), a high-level body which was able to assess priorities for the work of Central Desk (see 5.90).


The regular morning meeting was a key feature of SB operation, both at HQ and at regional level. At HQ the morning meeting was attended by the head and deputy head of IMG and the heads of the Republican and Loyalist Desks and of E9A (later Central Desk). The main purpose of the meeting was to carry out a review of the intelligence which had been collated in the previous 24 hours, and to discuss what action, if any, was needed. Information was shared and briefings prepared for the HSB and his Deputy (DHSB), who would in turn brief the Chief Constable. Similar morning meetings took place in each Region, and briefings from the RHSB reached the HSB at HQ by mid-morning. No notes or minutes were taken at these morning meetings, but decisions were taken in the light of the current intelligence position, and whoever was nominated to take any specific action noted this down in his day book, which was a police-issued A4-size notebook. These books were not retained, which means that there is an absence of an audit trail of decisions taken at morning meetings. The Inquiry has heard conflicting evidence about the attendance at the daily morning meeting at HQ, but it seems more likely that the heads of desks met daily with the HSB and head of IMG, notwithstanding the claim by the latter that such meetings were only weekly. It was the role of SB HQ to be primarily concerned with strategic intelligence, and the head of the IMG had little knowledge of day-to-day tactical operations, organised by the Regional Tasking and Co-ordinating Groups (TCGs, described in more detail in 5.66 to 5.68).


E4 consisted of two departments, one of which ran surveillance operations (E4A). Some such operations were the responsibility of SB HQ although the majority of surveillance operations were run by the Regions (see below). The other department was known as the Headquarters Mobile Support Unit (HMSU), which provided teams of uniformed officers, including firearms teams, to carry out operations.


E5, E6, and E7/8 remained the same post-Warner as they had been previously, i.e. the regions of SB to which so much work was devolved.


The Head of the IMG met daily with the HSB, and (probably) with the heads of the desks, and less frequently with what was called the Senior Management Group. The daily morning meetings were about current events and problems, while the relatively infrequent Senior Management Group meetings were more to do with costs and policy, and involved RHSBs.