PPS to commence proceedings in connection with Greenvale Hotel incident

01 September 2022

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) is to prosecute two individuals and one company in relation to an incident on 17th March 2019 at the Greenvale Hotel, Cookstown which led to the deaths of three teenagers.

Separate investigations were carried out by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland into the circumstances surrounding the tragic deaths of Morgan Barnard (17), Lauren Bullock (17) and Connor Currie (16) whilst attending a St Patrick’s Day social event at the County Tyrone venue.

As a result, large and complex files were submitted independently to the PPS by both investigating authorities, with the PSNI reporting 11 individuals for consideration and the Police Ombudsman reporting five police officers.

The parents of the three teenagers were this morning informed that after careful consideration of both files by a team of senior prosecutors, a decision has been taken to prosecute two of those investigated by the police, along with a company.

Two men, aged 55 and 43, are each to be charged with three counts of gross negligence manslaughter – one charge for each of the deaths. Prosecutors also intend to charge the same two individuals with one offence of contravening the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978.  In addition to these prosecutions, the company which runs the Greenvale Hotel, known as Tobin Limited, will also face one charge of contravening the same Health and Safety legislation.

Decisions not to prosecute were taken in relation to the remaining nine individuals reported by police and also the five police officers investigated by the Police Ombudsman for their actions whilst responding to events at the Greenvale Hotel. Further information on the reasoning behind these decisions not to prosecute is outlined below.

Senior Public Prosecutor Graham Cardwell said: "The loved ones of Morgan Barnard, Lauren Bullock and Connor Currie have suffered a painful loss. I acknowledge that today may be one of mixed emotions for these families as they continue to live with the aftermath of such deeply distressing events.

“The files received from the PSNI and the Police Ombudsman were voluminous and detailed and there were a considerable number of complex issues that required careful consideration. I am grateful to the families for their patience as the PPS took the time needed to complete the significant task of examining all available evidence before reaching decisions on whether there was a reasonable prospect of conviction in relation to each suspect. 

“I have informed the families that whilst the Test for Prosecution was met in respect of two suspects, it was considered not to be met on evidential grounds in respect of all other individuals reported in connection with events at the Greenvale Hotel that night. 

“Detailed reasons for these decisions not to prosecute have been provided in writing to the families and we have also offered to meet in person. Whilst some of the no prosecution decisions may be disappointing to them, I can reassure the families, and the wider public, that all decisions were taken independently and only after a most thorough examination of all evidence and information available. PPS prosecutors were assisted in this task by advice from independent Senior Counsel.

“Criminal proceedings will commence in due course and we will continue to engage directly with the families involved as the prosecution progresses.”

INVESTIGATION FILE RECEIVED FROM THE PSNI

The PPS received an investigation file from the PSNI in relation to the Greenvale Hotel incident, on which eleven individuals were reported as potential suspects.

As outlined above, a decision has been taken to prosecute two of these individuals, while decisions not to prosecute were taken in relation to the remaining nine individuals. Of these nine individuals, seven were working as door staff at the St Patrick’s Day event, while the remaining two had roles in connection with entertainment and hotel management respectively.

All nine were considered for the potential offence of contravening the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 before it was concluded that the available evidence did not present a reasonable prospect of conviction. The PPS concluded that each of these nine could have exercised very little control over the planning for and management of the events which unfolded, or alternatively held a role which carried little responsibility for the safety of hotel patrons.

INVESTIGATION FILE RECEIVED FROM THE POLICE OMBUDSMAN

The PPS received a file from the Police Ombudsman after its investigation into the actions of five PSNI officers. Each officer was investigated and reported for the offence of misconduct in public office.

The allegations against the officers in the report related to a period from 9.25pm to 9.48pm which were the times of a 999 call to police and officers later arriving at the hotel. The investigation focused on the actions of the police call dispatcher and two sets of police officers who were on duty in Cookstown at the time.

An analysis of the actions of the call dispatcher concluded that he had communicated, in good faith and without delay, the key information that he received directly as a result of the 999 call. He adequately communicated the seriousness of the situation to the other officers and it could not be established that he had misconducted himself.

The remaining four officers considered were three constables and one temporary sergeant who were travelling in pairs in separate cars at the time. It was concluded by the PPS that the available evidence was insufficient to establish that the reported officers recognised the seriousness or exact nature of the situation that was unfolding. There was difficulty in establishing exactly what they heard over the police communications and there was some initial confusion as to whether the incident was a public order situation, either inside or outside the hotel.

The approach taken by the sergeant was to immediately seek additional police resource so that his officers could safely take any necessary action. Police observations of the queue at the front of the hotel failed to identify any emergency and police also received assurances from inside the hotel that the situation was under control.

Mr Cardwell concluded: “The offence of misconduct in a public office is committed where a public officer, without reasonable excuse or justification, wilfully neglects to perform his duty to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust in the office holder.

“The threshold for this offence is high. I have concluded that the Test for Prosecution is not met against any of the five officers.  The evidence was not capable of establishing any bad faith or improper motive in the actions of police at the scene or that they wilfully ignored a high-risk situation of which they were aware.”

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.
  2. As criminal proceedings will commence in due course and each defendant has the right to a fair trial, it is extremely important to protect the integrity of any future trial that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice those proceedings. For this reason, there will be no further comment from the PPS on these decisions.
  3. This matter is being dealt with by way of indictable summons. The PPS is working to finalise court papers whereupon they will be served on each defendant and the case listed for first appearance in the magistrates’ court.
  4. The PSNI file was received by the PPS on 3rd February 2021.
  5. The Police Ombudsman file was received by the PPS on 9th March 2022. This followed an interim file from the Ombudsman which was received by prosecutors on 24th April 2020.
  6. 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.