Belfast Telegraph

Derry bus lane video probe cops given desk jobs

BY DONNA DEENEY

The officers filmed leaving an incapacitated woman lying in a bus lane have been moved to duties that will not bring them into contact with the public.

While the officers have not been suspended, they have been "repositioned" into desk jobs – a recommendation from the Police Ombudsman, who is investigating the incident in Londonderry.

Temporary Deputy Chief Constable Alistair Finlay said the repositioning move was made without any prejudice to the officers or the Ombudsman's ongoing investigation.

"The decision to reposition the officers will be reviewed at the conclusion of the Police Ombudsman's investigation," he said.

The 42-second video which emerged on Wednesday showed two police officers abandoning alcoholic Traveller Bridget Mongan (23) in a John Street bus lane.

After a public backlash, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton accepted that it "looked bad" and had been bad for confidence in policing.

However, DUP MP Gregory Campbell said that the recording should not be taken out of context.

Since the footage shot on St Patrick's Day went viral on the internet, additional information has emerged which shows the circumstances that led up to what was recorded.

Eyewitness Karl Hargan, the manager of an off-licence which fronts onto the bus lane where Ms Mongan (23) was dumped, said he saw a highly charged altercation between Bridget and her partner, Marty McLaughlin, shortly beforehand.

CCTV footage from inside the off-licence has also been released, and that must be taken into account said Mr Campbell.

"While this 42-second video gives us an indication of what happened during that time we had no idea what had led up to that," he said, referring to the heated row. "All these issues need to be taken into account and it is important that people do not jump to conclusion.

"What we must be wary of is a trial of these officers held in public.

"We have heard the case for the prosecution, but we must also now hear the case for the defence.

"These officers must say why they didn't put this woman on the footpath, but we should not make judgments until we have heard the full story."

A source close to the PSNI said officers were feeling the strain of the scrutiny they were under.

"It is difficult for every police officer because they feel the full story of this incident isn't known yet, and that is frustrating for them," he said.

"A serving police officer goes out every day and serves the public, often at great risk to themselves.

"It is a pity all the sterling work that police officers do in every village, town and city in Northern Ireland doesn't get captured on an iPhone and posted on the internet."

QUOTE

"This is not the time for knee-jerk reactions, and while no one is asking for any favours during this investigation, it is helpful that witnesses to the events prior to what was recorded have painted the bigger picture and the CCTV will hopefully allow the public to get a degree of perspective."

- A PSNI source

'I could have been killed... the police officers who left me lying on road should be sacked'

Very few people had heard of Bridget Mongan until Wednesday, when a 42-second video thrust her into the media spotlight.

The notorious clip showed two police officers leaving the 23-year-old woman lying on a road, apparently incapacitated.

Bridget is a member of the Traveller community in Londonderry and, by her own admission, has an alcohol problem.

Having said that, Bridget will tell you she is usually happy –although right now she feels angry and is adamant she wants the two police officers sacked.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, she said: "When I saw the video I saw that I could have been killed, because they left me on the bus stop.

"I am still in shock by what the police did, they put my life in danger and I think the policemen have to be sacked," she added.

"They haven't even said sorry to me, but even if they did it is too late. The only person who has spoken to me is the Police Ombudsman and I told him everything.

"They treated me like a dog, but I am a human being. They should not have done that to me."

Bridget is close to her sister and brother – but the main person in her life is her boyfriend of nine years, Marty McLaughlin.

Bridget's life is not complicated. She spends her time at home with Marty or with the friends from the street drinking fraternity she meets at the Foyle Road car park each day.

"I have Marty and my family and that's enough," she said.

"I have my sister in Strabane and my brother here in town and they ring me all the time.

"I have been with Marty for nine years, which is a long time, and sometimes we fight, but we love each other."

She spends her daytime hours sitting on a wall at the Foyle Street car park looking out over the river, watching the ebb and flow of the water and sharing out whatever drink there is between them.

If the weather is cold and wet, Bridget and her friends know they can find shelter in the Foyle Haven where the staff and volunteers will have a hot meal and somewhere dry where they can relax and play a game of pool.

Bridget was initially unaware of the controversy surrounding the video because she hadn't seen it, and being in contact with the police is not unusual because in her life as a street drinker she has almost daily contact with them.

"They don't like me but they talk to us when we are sitting in the car park having a drink, they ask if we are all right. They are there every day, but I don't think they like me," she said.

Monday was just such a day.

Marty and Bridget have a volatile relationship and had a heated public row. The manager of an off-licence in John Street and a staff member from Foyle Haven rang the police.

Marty was arrested and was put in the back of the police car. Bridget then decided she didn't want Marty taken away and attempted to get into the police car, which was just before Sean McCallion turned on his smartphone and began filming.

"I wasn't doing anything wrong, I wanted to get into the police car to tell Marty that I loved him and I was sorry for fighting with him, and I would be waiting for him when he got back from the police station," she said.

No doubt before long Bridget's life will return to the routine it had before this video catapulted her into the spotlight, and that is something she won't be sorry about.

"I am happy with my life, it is all right for me," she added.

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