Belfast Telegraph

Fury as Gerry Kelly sues Matt Baggott over his Land Rover fracas

By Chris Kilpatrick

A decision by Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly to sue Northern Ireland's top police officer has been described as a ridiculous and deplorable stunt.

The North Belfast MLA has launched civil legal proceedings against PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott after he was carried on the front of a police Land Rover last June.

Mr Kelly is pursuing the claim despite admitting he was at fault for his role in the fracas which happened after a contentious loyal order parade through the north of the city.

Sinn Fein yesterday said Mr Kelly was "entitled to access the courts when he believes he has been wronged".

But the move has been met with fury by unionist politicians who accused him of political posturing.

"This is one of the most petty and small-minded actions ever witnessed from Sinn Fein. Gerry Kelly is a member of the Policing Board yet sees fit to waste further police time and resources with this civil case," said North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds.

"Republicans have given support to the police but yet some members of Sinn Fein engage in posturing in an attempt to distract the most discontented elements. That can be the only explanation for this latest stunt, unless of course it is just a blatant attempt to perpetuate community tensions," said Mr Dodds.

Papers detailing the intention to pursue civil proceedings were lodged with the Northern Ireland Court Service on Friday.

They name Mr Kelly as the applicant and Mr Baggott as the sole defendant in his role as the head of the PSNI.

Jonathan Craig, who sits alongside Mr Kelly on the Policing Board, said he was astonished at the development.

"This is a man who has previously admitted his guilt in relation to this incident," said the DUP MLA. "He sits as chair of the resources committee within the Policing Board and this to me is where the irony in all of this lies," said Mr Craig. "He knows the huge financial pressures the police budget is under, yet we have the individual in charge of that trying to take even more money from that budget."

A member of Stormont's justice committee said the civil case lodged against Mr Baggott was "ridiculous".

"You have somebody who tried to impede a police vehicle, then he wants compensation," said Ulster Unionist MLA Tom Elliott. "I would hope common sense prevails and this is thrown out."

Mr Kelly said he was trying to speak to officers involved in the arrest of a teenage boy following the parade in north Belfast.

He was subsequently carried for a distance while clinging to the front of a police Land Rover.

Last month he was handed a caution for his part in the incident.

A PSNI spokesman declined to comment yesterday.

STORY SO FAR

North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly was carried for a short distance on the front of a police Land Rover following a contentious Loyal Order parade last June. He claimed he tried to speak to officers involved in the arrest of a teenager in the Carrick Hill area at the time. Unionists reacted with fury when he escaped prosecution, instead accepting a caution.

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