Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Policing Board will decide fate of property probe chief

The body that scrutinises the PSNI is to decide whether property developer Barry Gilligan is to stay on as its chairman after police stepped up an investigation linked to a company of which he is a director.

The PSNI’s organised crime branch carried out planned searches at the Policing Board chairman’s home and at Policing Board offices as part of a probe into a controversial development site in north Belfast.

Mr Gilligan said he will be looking for the Policing Board’s support to allow him to return to his post next month following a period of illness.

DUP board member Jimmy Spratt said however that he should not return until the police investigation is complete.

“The man is presumed innocent until proven guilty but until such time as the police investigation is complete, for the integrity of the board, Mr Gilligan should step down,” he said.

UUP board member Basil McCrea added that it is “imperative that the good work of the Policing Board is allowed to continue, unhampered by this investigation”.

Controversy has raged for several months over a valuable development property at Nelson Street in north Belfast owned by Big Picture developments, which lists Mr Gilligan as one of its directors.

Earlier this year, the Northern Ireland housing executive urged the PSNI to investigate its own role in the development.

The Housing Executive said concerns were raised about its role in the site and, as a responsible public body, it has referred the matter to the PSNI.

Mr Gilligan, who has been on leave for several months while he recovers from heart surgery, said he and the other company directors have been cooperating fully with police.

He said that he “will voluntarily meet the PSNI in the coming days”, adding that he is confident both he and the company would be vindicated.

Mr Gilligan said he had to take temporary leave as chairman of the Policing Board due to impending heart surgery and had hoped to return before the end of the summer.

“But in light of the recent activity by the PSNI, my coronary condition and the dignity of the office of chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, I feel that I should not return to the role at this time,” he said.

Mr Gilligan added he would seek support to return as chairman at a board meeting on September 2.

No one has been arrested or charged with any offence in the investigation.

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