CONCERNS have been raised after it emerged that British security service MI5 is responsible for deciding if victims of sectarian attacks receive special measures to protect their homes.
Previously it was widely believed that the PsnI assessed if people qualified for inclusion on the Home Protection scheme, which is operated by the northern Ireland office.
However, it has emerged that a catholic family in co Derry which has reported 18 incidents of sectarian intimidation and violence since 2006 have been refused access to the scheme after their case was assessed by MI5. East Derry SDLP assembly member John Dallat last night said that in the most recent incident the PSNI delivered a threat to the family's Garvagh home at the end of January.
In a recent letter to Mr Dallat an NIO official confirmed that members of the public believed by MI5 to be under a "severe or substantial threat" from paramilitary groups are "automatically admitted to the scheme" while applications are also considered from individuals "under a real or immediate threat."
A spokeswoman for the NIO last night said the scheme is open to those involved in the "administration of government and/or the criminal justice system and the maintenance of law and order."
It is believe politicians, members of the judiciary and security forces benefit from the scheme.
In correspondence to Mr Dallat the NIO said the Garvagh family "have not been assessed to be at substantial or severe threat."
Mr Dallat he was shocked to learn that the security agency is centrally involved in low-level decision making.
"This letter confirms my worst fears that we are now officially in the clutches of the secret organisation M15 the same organisation that I believe was involved covertly during the worst years of the troubles when some of the most astonishing events took place involving life and death," he said.
"The PSNI have 18 recorded incidents at the home of this family and M15 are apparently sitting in judgement deciding that they do not qualify even for strengthened glass in their front window. It really is amazing."
Mr Dallatt said politicians from the north are responsible for bolstering the role of MI5.
"It seems that we are now experiencing some of the worst outworking of deals done at St Andrews and Hillsborough between the DUP and sinn Fein which has now placed M15 in a key security position deciding who should get protection and who should not," he said.
"Putting MI5 in charge of security decisions is like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop."
A spokeswoman for the NIO last night confirmed that "applicants to the Home Protection scheme are subject to a rigorous threat assessment which is undertaken by MI5."
"MI5 has the lead responsibility for national security in northern Ireland, as in the rest of the UK. They are therefore responsible for providing the threat assessment for those making an application to the scheme," he said.
The spokeswoman refused to reveal how many people are helped by the scheme citing "security reasons."
According to the NIO official the scheme began in the early 1970s when it was known as the VIP Protection scheme.
"It later became the Key Persons Protection scheme which was eventually replaced by the Home Protection scheme," she said.