PPS verdict – why were officers thrown to wolves? Clarke

DUP South Antrim MLA and Lead Policing Board representative Trevor Clarke has welcomed confirmation that two probationary police officers who responded to suspected breaches of Covid regulations at an event on the Ormeau Road in February will not face prosecution.

By Trevor Clarke MLA

South Antrim

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The decision by the Public Prosecution Service follows an allegation of assault following the arrest of a member of the public. PSNI bodycam footage later showed that up to forty people attended the event at a time when the limit on public gatherings was six.

Responding, Mr Clarke said:

“While this is a welcome outcome, it will be little comfort to the two young officers whose lives and careers have been unjustifiably disrupted by the events of the past ten months.

The PPS has found that there is not sufficient evidence to back up claims the officers acted unlawfully. This demonstrates that the Chief Constable’s public apology was a monumental error of judgement. Rather than being thrown to the wolves, the officers would have expected to benefit from the protection of due process from their employer. Instead, the leadership of the PSNI bowed to political pressure from nationalists and republicans and endorsed trial by social media.

There are still serious unanswered questions about the nature of the internal police investigation into the incident. The delays in concluding this process will have an enduring psychological impact on those who have been suspended or repositioned, as well as their families. In light of the PPS judgement, there should be an urgent reassessment of whether such an investigation is warranted or in the public interest.

PPS Assistant Director Martin Hardy has gone to great lengths in his statement to point out the sensitivities involved in this case. This shouldn’t overshadow the fact that the complaint was not justified and that officers acted in a legitimate way. In reality, hundreds of families across Northern Ireland have buried loved ones and marked anniversaries during the pandemic while choosing to abide by the regulations.

The nature of today’s decision adds to the rising mountain of evidence of two-tier policing in our Province. There cannot be one rule for one community and another for everyone else. The rule of law must be applied equally to everyone. The PSNI cannot continue to jump to the tune of republicans while keeping up the pretence that they are in the business of serving all communities.”

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