Decisions taken not to prosecute police officers over Ormeau Road commemoration incident

08 December 2021

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has today confirmed that decisions have been taken not to prosecute two police officers reported by the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland (PONI) in connection with an incident in south Belfast earlier this year.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers were considered in relation to allegations of assault against a member of the public during a commemoration event held in the Ormeau Road vicinity on 5th February 2021.

The evidence received from PONI investigators was subjected to an impartial and independent application of the Test for Prosecution, in line with the PPS Code for Prosecutors. The prosecution team was also assisted by advice received from independent Counsel in reaching its conclusions.

PPS Assistant Director Martin Hardy recognised the sensitivities surrounding the police response to the commemoration which is held annually to mark the murder of five people and wounding of nine others at Sean Graham’s bookmakers on the Ormeau Road on 5th February 1992. 

The PSNI officers, who were not aware of the background to the gathering and came across it whilst on patrol, approached the event in light of potential breaches of the Covid-19 legislation in place at the time.

This led to an incident between civilians and police which resulted in the arrest of one member of the public. A complaint was subsequently made to PONI which resulted in two officers being investigated and reported to the PPS for decisions as to prosecution.

Mr Hardy said: “The complaint related to the actions of the officers in arresting and handcuffing one person during the incident.  

“Having carefully considered the available evidence, the PPS decision was that there is insufficient evidence to prove that the actions of the officers in arresting the civilian, and applying handcuffs to him, were unlawful.  

“Separate consideration was given to whether an omission to remove the handcuffs after a period of time had passed could amount to an assault by a police officer.  Again, after a thorough examination of all matters, it was concluded that the Test for Prosecution is not met for any assault arising from that aspect of the complaint.” 

Mr Hardy said the complainant has today received detailed reasons for the decisions not to prosecute in writing, along with an offer to meet to address any further questions.  

Mr Hardy said: “We are acutely aware of the deep sensitivities attached to this case, and the distress caused to the complainant through being arrested at an event to remember an atrocity which those present were so directly and profoundly impacted by. I would like to reassure the public that these decisions were taken impartially and after a full consideration of all relevant matters.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1. All decisions by the PPS are taken strictly in accordance with the Test for Prosecution which involves two stages. The Test for Prosecution is met if, in relation to an identifiable suspect, the available evidence is sufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of a conviction (the Evidential Test) and if prosecution is in the public interest (the Public Interest Test). The Evidential Test must be passed first before the Public Interest Test is considered. Further information can be found in the PPS Code for Prosecutors.