Belfast Telegraph

Gerry Kelly Land Rover row: Matt Baggott urged to back PSNI officer facing reprimand

BY CLAIRE GRAHAM

There have been calls for Chief Constable Matt Baggott to intervene on behalf of a police officer who faces being reprimanded after a Sinn Fein MLA was driven a short distance while clinging to the front of a PSNI Land Rover.

The call from the Police Federation chairman came as the officer spent yesterday waiting to hear from the Public Prosecution Service or Police Ombudsman if he would face any official sanctions.

The two authorities also appeared confused over who was responsible for letting the officer know what was happening.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly was carried for a short distance clinging to the front grille of the Land Rover after the arrest of a teenage boy following a contentious parade in north Belfast last June.

The Assembly member claimed he had been trying to speak to officers involved in the arrest.

On Tuesday, it was revealed that Mr Kelly will face no prosecution for attempting to block the police Land Rover.

Instead, the North Belfast MLA was given an "informed warning" by police – a formal reprimand that remains on his criminal record for 12 months.

Unionists reacted with fury, which was only compounded after it emerged the driver of the Land Rover faces similar action for allegedly driving without due care and attention.

However, last night the constable still hadn't been told what sanctions, if any, he faces, despite media reports he had accepted a sanction.

The Belfast Telegraph asked the Public Prosecution Service who was responsible for letting the officer know what was happening.

A PPS spokeswoman said to contact the Police Ombudsman as there had been some "confusion" over the matter.

But in a statement the Police Ombudsman said: "We investigated the conduct of the officer in question and forwarded a file to the Public Prosecution Service which has now said he is to be reprimanded.

"I would not want to discuss in detail the personal details of this officer. What I can say is that after a criminal matter has been dealt with, we would then look at a case to see if there are any outstanding misconduct issues which need to be addressed."

Police Federation chairman Terry Spence said he was disappointed that Chief Constable Matt Baggott hadn't come forward to make an intervention.

Mr Spence said the officer and his family were "deeply disturbed" by the fact they had to hear of potential legal proceedings through the Press. The policeman was on duty at the time the news broke.

"The way this officer has been treated is an absolute disgrace, it's a joke if it wasn't so serious. The signal this sends out to officers who go out and do an incredibly difficult job and face challenges every day of the week is that they aren't being backed in the way they should be," he said.

Video of incident via Sinn Fein's YouTube channel

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