Further statement from the PPS regarding Covid funeral decisions

31 March 2021

As the Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron indicated yesterday, it is recognised that significant sacrifices and compromises have been made by many families in abiding by both the spirit and letter of the Coronavirus Regulations.  It is worth emphasising again that the lack of clarity and consistency within the Regulations (as outlined in the PPS decision rationale) referred to the specific point in time of this particular funeral, and should not undermine the value the Regulations have had overall in protecting public health or their enforceability at other times and in other circumstances.

The Public Prosecution Service has now received a number of requests to review the decisions taken not to prosecute the 24 individuals reported by PSNI. These include one from an elected representative on behalf of a member of the public.

In line with the procedure set out in the PPS Code for Prosecutors, this process will be carried out by a senior PPS lawyer who was not involved in taking the original decisions on this file. This lawyer will be assisted by obtaining the advice of Senior Counsel who is independent of the PPS and was also not in any way involved in the original decisions.

We recognise that the prosecutorial decisions are one component part of more holistic concerns expressed recently, as is evident from media reporting and commentary. For the sake of clarity, further enquiry around why the Regulations were amended in short succession before and after the funeral or the conduct of police in engaging with funeral organisers will largely be beyond the scope of any prosecutorial review, save for any bearing they have on whether or not the Test for Prosecution is considered to be met. 

In terms of any request for further clarification of the PPS decision rationale which issued yesterday, we will not be in a position to provide further comment over and above our public statement given that a review of the decisions is to be conducted imminently.

ENDS

GUIDANCE:  

  • All decision-making on the file relating to the Bobby Storey funeral was done impartially, independently and fully in line with the PPS Code for Prosecutors.
  • The evidence provided by the police was carefully considered and concluded with the assistance of advice from experienced Senior Counsel.
  • The right to request a review of a PPS decision is provided by the Code for Prosecutors. As before, this process will involve an independent and impartial application of the Test for Prosecution. Further information on the review process can be found by clicking the link.
  • The full press release and public statement in relation to this matter can be found by clicking the links. 
  • Media queries for the PPS should be referred to the Communications Unit by emailing ppspressoffice@ppsni.gov.uk inside office hours. The out of hours press officer can be contacted on 07920 271 804 or 07795 480234.