The DUP’s representatives on the Policing Board have discussed a range of issues relating to the PSNI’s response to the public health threat of Covid-19 during a meeting with the Chief Constable.
They discussed the role of the part-time reserve, the breaking of regulations at funerals and caravan parks as well as the need to address serious concerns about levels of domestic violence.
Commending frontline officers and staff for their dedication during this unprecedented crisis, North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey said:
‘‘This was a useful opportunity to take stock of the PSNI’s role and response to Covid-19. We want to place on record our gratitude to police officers and staff who, like other blue light services, are providing a vital service to the public in enforcing social distancing regulations and helping to protect our NHS. These duties are on top of the normal policing response to calls for service - many of which are from vulnerable and at-risk sections of our community.
I also raised the value of officers in the part-time reserve who are helping to meet these demands locally, stressing the need to ensure this contribution is recognised when this crisis is over.’’
East Belfast MLA Joanne Bunting commented:
‘‘Over this past number of days across Northern Ireland we have witnessed incidents of hundreds of people gathering at funerals. There cannot be two sets of rules and the rules are clear. I raised these breaches with the Chief Constable today and emphasised that is imperative that a robust approach is applied to those flagrantly violating social distancing.
Further, I raised concerns regarding custody in Musgrave Police Station and sought reassurance that all appropriate steps are being taken to ensure the safety of all involved at this location. It is important that justice continues to be served. Provision for live-link court appearances will ensure the criminal justice system can continue to operate.’’
West Tyrone DUP MLA Tom Buchanan added:
‘‘The scenes witnessed at the funeral of Francie McNally contravened the regulations on public gatherings. It is vital that the police act on this and other examples of reckless and irresponsible breaches of social distancing. We recognise that enforcement powers should be used in a fair and proportionate manner, however at this time of uncertainty the public expectation is that those who risk their own health and that of others will face the full rigour of the law.
I also stressed the need for more effective communication between PSNI team and local communities. We need to prevent future confusion particularly around the opening of caravan parks in order to ensure public support for the current restrictions is maintained.’’
South Antrim MLA Trevor Clarke concluded:
‘‘The rise in domestic abuse incidents reported since social distancing regulations came into effect is a startling statistic. Whilst other crime demands appear to have reduced in line with new measures, this has not been the case for domestic crime. Behind each of these incidents is a victim whose wellbeing we have a duty to promote and protect and even more so in the current environment in which people may find it harder to leave their homes or reach out for help. We want to thank the PSNI for their efforts in tackling this area of crime, including making available the Silent Solutions Service, which enables a 999 caller who is too scared to make a noise, or speak, to press 55 when prompted.’’