Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Gerry Kelly Land Rover row driver may now face internal PSNI discipline probe

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly on the bonnet of the police Land Rover

A PSNI officer cautioned for driving a Land Rover while a Sinn Fein MLA clung to its bonnet faces a fresh probe by the policing watchdog.

Gerry Kelly was carried for a short distance on the front of the vehicle when he claimed he tried to speak to officers involved in the arrest of a teenage boy following a contentious Loyal Order parade in north Belfast last June.

Last month he was handed a diversionary disposal for his part in the altercation, and yesterday it was confirmed the driver had been dealt with in the same way.

The officer "reluctantly" accepted the caution after he was accused of driving without due care and attention – to the fury of his union and unionist politicians.

The Belfast Telegraph has learned he may now face internal disciplinary procedures.

The Police Ombudsman was made aware of the incident at the time but was unable to act until it was decided whether the officer would accept the reprimand or defend himself in court.

The watchdog will now consider if his behaviour amounted to misconduct. Any legal proceedings involving officers are investigated by the Ombudsman as a matter of course. Terry Spence, chair of the Police Federation, which represents almost 7,000 rank-and-file officers in Northern Ireland, said he was furious at the treatment of the policeman.

Mr Spence said: "The glare of publicity, and the burden it placed on his family, lay behind the officer's reluctant decision to accept the informed warning.

"The Police Federation for Northern Ireland believes the decision to hand down this warning was ill-judged and unjustified.

"Mr Kelly has accepted the warning, which in our view makes the decision of the Public Prosecution Service to mete out the same sanction all the more incomprehensible.

"Put simply, the officer was merely doing his duty and we are saddened over the way he has been used as a political pawn in this incident."

The policing union had led calls for Chief Constable Matt Baggott to intervene on behalf of the officer. It also said it would fully back the officer if he chose to defend himself in court.

A case on the incident was initially passed to the Police Ombudsman's Office. It then sent a file to the PPS.

The Ombudsman's office declined to comment yesterday.

North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds said: "Not only did Gerry Kelly escape prosecution for this incident, but now a police officer has had an informed warning imposed for simply doing his job.

"It is bizarre and quite disgraceful that the victim of this obstruction has been handed the same penalty as the person guilty of carrying it out.

"We must ask whether this penalty would have been handed out had the identity of the person obstructing the officers that evening been different."

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