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Mum to challenge PSNI decision to reinstate officer after son's death in custody

Published 12/01/2016

Elizabeth McGowan has been granted leave to seek a judicial review
Elizabeth McGowan has been granted leave to seek a judicial review

The mother of a man who died in custody has won the right to legally challenge the PSNI over the reinstatement of an officer who dealt with him.

Elizabeth McGowan was granted leave to seek a judicial review of the decision taken following the death of her son David in May 2014.

A High Court judge was told on Tuesday that the police policy was flawed, unlawful and involved a failure to consult the dead man's family.

Mrs McGowan's lawyers also claimed resource issues wrongly featured in deciding to reinstate the officer to another role.

David McGowan, 28, was taken to Lisburn station after being arrested over an incident in east Belfast.

He subsequently died while being held within the custody suite.

A Police Ombudsman investigation has resulted in the case being referred to the Public Prosecution Service.

The court heard the watchdog's findings are still under consideration by the PPS.

Barrister Hugh Southey QC, for the dead man's mother, insisted she had a legitimate interest and should have been consulted on what police were planning to do.

He argued that an officer currently subject to serious allegations would have been suspended if police were not facing resource problems.

According to Mr Southey there was prima facie "pretty strong evidence of serious illegality, life threatening illegality".

He added: "If one reinstates the officer essentially because it's said that the PSNI in simple terms can't afford not to deploy the officer, one is potentially saying we are going to have to tolerate actions which, on the face of it, may well have been unlawful."

During the hearing Mr Justice Maguire stressed that assessment of any alleged wrongdoing was ongoing.

However, he ruled that Mrs McGowan had raised an arguable case which merited further legal exploration.

She was granted leave to apply for a full judicial review at a further hearing still to be listed.

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