PFNI wins Judicial Review into Ormeau Rd ‘injustice’ and raises questions around decision-making
The Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) says “serious questions” have to be asked of the decision-making of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) after it won a Judicial Review into actions taken against probationer officers involved in the Ormeau Road ‘Covid-related incident’ in 2021.
One officer was suspended and the other repositioned. The High Court said the actions were “unlawful” and quashed the measures. In addition, the court said the chief constable “bent to political pressure” in the process.
The incident happened on the Ormeau Road in February 2021 where a service marking the anniversary of the February 1992 Sean Graham bookmakers attack in which five people were murdered and nine others injured by the UFF was being held.
The annual wreath-laying ceremony at the scene took place amid restrictions on public gatherings due to Covid-19 regulations.
During that event, one man, who had been shot and injured in the 1992 attack, was detained on suspicion of disorderly behaviour and put in handcuffs.
He was later released without charge.
Although the suspension and re-positioning decisions were lifted later that year following a review, backed by the PFNI both constables applied for a judicial review into the lawfulness of the disciplinary moves.
Reacting to the judgment, PFNI chair Liam Kelly said: “This is clear vindication of the position we adopted. It was our clear view that the initial actions taken by PSNI against both officers were high-handed, unwarranted and excessive.
“There was a headlong rush by the chief constable to apologise for what took place when the officers, in fact, were simply doing their duty by enforcing Covid regulations. They’d received the all-clear to intervene in the gathering, but yet they were the only two singled out for disciplinary measures.
“In our view, this High Court judgment calls into question the decision-making of the senior executive team, right up to and including the deputy chief constable and the chief constable himself.”
He added: “These officers were sacrificed on the altar of political expediency in a disgraceful attempt to pander to political pressure.
“The two officers will be delighted by this outcome. Unfortunately one of them still finds himself being subjected to a disciplinary process and, in light of this conclusion, we would demand the PSNI expedite this matter forthwith.
“The rank and file expect the PSNI senior management to have their backs when they go about their duties – this judgment reaffirms the perception and belief that this is sadly not the case.
“The Federation had no hesitation in taking this Judicial Review. It was the correct action to take to defend these two officers who, through no fault of their own, found themselves bearing the brunt of an over-zealous disciplinary process that left their careers on ‘hold’.
“Today, an injustice has been corrected and the men and women I represent are delighted at the outcome.”