Belfast Telegraph

Ormeau Road parade: Police Federation condemns release of officer's name and address on social media

Federation chairman condemns 'scurrilous comments' against PSNI officer

The release of the name and address of a police officer, involved in dealing with disturbances during a loyalist parade on the Ormeau Road, has been condemned by the Police Federation for Northern Ireland.

Two police officers were injured and police motorcycle was damaged during the parade in south Belfast on Tuesday evening.

Community representatives claimed children were affected by the use of CS spray.

Police have charged a 26-year-old man with two counts of assault on police and disorderly behaviour.

The chairman of the police federation, Mark Lindsay, has roundly condemned the actions of individuals behind "a campaign of vilification on social media" against an officer involved in the incident.

Mr Lindsay said revealing details of the police officer’s name and address was of immediate concern given the fact that the terrorist threat level remains ‘severe’.

Mr Lindsay said: "The comments posted on social media are scurrilous and despicable. There is an investigation underway by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and that is where this should be left.

"This type of trial by social media, where officers are readily identified in a photograph and their personal details bandied freely on social networks, is reprehensible. All right thinking people must condemn this anarchy by people who are baying not for facts, but for blood.

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"They resort to dangerous words of incitement, foul abuse and undisguised hatred with little or no reliance on cold facts.

"The job officers do can involve them working in dangerous situations where protecting lives and property are the objective. They will continue do that objectively and fairly, whether it’s on the Ormeau Road or in Crumlin."

Mr Lindsay said the officer was simply doing his duty in a challenging situation.

He called on those behind the social media campaign to "park their prejudices and let the lawfully constituted agencies get on with the job of investigating what actually took place".   

Politicians 'should stop using police officers as political football in run-up to election'

Mr Lindsay added: "Politicians, too, have a responsibility here, and I would demand that they stop using police officers as a political football in the run up to the Assembly election. Officers deserve to be supported, not condemned for the demanding and dangerous job that they do. 

"Politicians who did not witness what happened should desist from making inflammatory comments and instead take a more measured, objective position. Stand back and take a long, hard look at what you’re saying, as your words can stir up community tensions and lead to street disorder, which we can do well without in the run-up to an Assembly Election."

DUP MLA Emma Pengelly said: "All policing must be appropriate and proportionate. The Police Ombudsman has been notified and there must be a full examination of what took place.

"Anyone who was present should come forward and give information to the Police Ombudsman."

SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said: "I have spoken to senior PSNI officers after being contacted about an incident on the Ormeau Road this evening relating to a marching band from Carrickfergus.

"Police will be reviewing CCTV from various sources to corroborate officer report and I understand that they have given a full report to the Police Ombudsman.

"There has been substantial amount of comment about the incident on social media, including by political representatives.

"Unless people were actually witness to the events they should be very circumspect about their comments. The wires of policing and politics should not cross and it is inappropriate for representatives to use this incident to escalate tensions before the full facts are known.

"Ormeau is an exceptionally diverse and well integrated area and it is vital that any tensions are reduced ahead of the marching season."

PSNI statement

Following a day of numerous police media interviews on the matter, the PSNI issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon outlining their view of events.

Chief Superintendent Chris Noble said: “After a busy day of successful and peaceful events across Belfast, unfortunately an incident towards the end of the day, which could have been avoided had some bandsmen followed police directions, has become the news headline.

“Following this incident a 26-year-old man has been arrested and charged with disorderly behaviour and two counts of assault on police so we are limited with the amount of detail we can discuss.

“Our investigation into this incident is ongoing and following standard procedure, the Police Ombudsman has also been informed regarding the use of CS incapacitant spray and we will co-operate fully with their enquiries.

“What we can say is that two police officers, one on a motorcycle, were in attendance at a band parade in the Ormeau Road area of south Belfast on Tuesday, March 29.

“Just after 5.10pm, police spoke with parade organisers about some band members who were walking in amongst parked cars and traffic. A police officer then asked the band members to step back but they simply disregarded his requests.

"At that point one of the officers tried to move bandsmen away from brushing against parked cars when he came under attack by a section of the band. The other officer got off his motorcycle to assist his colleague when he was also attacked and the police motorbike damaged.

“Due to the number of people attacking the officers, they defended themselves with their batons. CS incapacitant spray was directed only on the people attacking them and the incident was brought under control. The two officers received minor injuries.

“Shortly after, a 26-year-old man was arrested. He has since been charged with disorderly behaviour and two counts of assault on police."

The police officer continued: "The use of CS incapacitant spray is tightly scrutinised within the PSNI and officers use their judgement when it comes to a graduated response to any threat that they may come under. As is standard procedure, the Police Ombudsman has been informed in regard to the use of CS incapacitant spray. We welcome the Ombudsman’s investigation and we will co-operate fully with their enquiries.

"Any subsequent contact any children or young people had with CS spray particles is deeply regretted.

“Senior colleagues were in communication with community representatives and politicians last night following the incident and I would be happy to meet with any band members, organisers or anyone in the local community who have concerns about this incident in the days ahead.”

Children with swollen eyes and lips

Noel Liggett, District Master of Ballynafeigh District and the County Secretary for Belfast Junior County Lodge said the spray caused children to have swollen eyes and lips.

"Around 20 children were on parade with us yesterday, the average age would be six, seven, eight and nine," he told the BBC.

"I was quite shocked to see many young children in a state of shock.

"Five of them had suffered the effect of CS gas and a number of young children in the band had also suffered the effects of the gas."

He said that the incident was down to "poor policing on the ground and a lack of communication".

"During the incident PSNI officers deployed CS spray into the parade, many of whom were young boys and girls aged between five and 11, who were affected by the spray," he added.

He said it was "completely false" that cars had been damaged, as police had claimed, and that the CS spray was used "indiscriminately".

First Minister Arlene Foster said she has spoken to Chief Constable George Hamilton about the disturbances.

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