Police Federation gives 'full backing' to officer who drove Land Rover with Gerry Kelly on bonnet
The police officer who drove a PSNI Land Rover carrying Gerry Kelly on the bonnet has been told he has the full backing of his union if he decides to let the matter go to court.
The Sinn Fein MLA attempted to stop the vehicle, claiming he was trying to speak to officers involved in the arrest of a teenage boy following a contentious Orange Order parade in north Belfast last June.
This week Mr Kelly revealed he would face no charges over the incident, instead accepting a caution on Monday for his part in the altercation.
But on Tuesday it emerged the police officer who was behind the wheel of the Land Rover faces a similar warning - for allegedly driving without due care and attention.
Should the officer choose not to accept the reprimand, he could face prosecution through the courts.
The Police Federation for Northern Ireland has reacted angrily, with chairman Terry Spence claiming the policeman had done nothing wrong and was unaware of the “informed warning” until it was reported in the media.
He told the Belfast Telegraph the federation would give the constable its full backing.
PFNI also tweeted: "Constable/driver involved in G.Kelly incident has NOT been issued with informed warning or reprimand.
"If this is an attempted trade off it is totally unacceptable as the officer has done nothing wrong.
"PFNI will rigorously defend the officer in ANY proceedings."
The incident was filmed by Republican newspaper An Phoblacht:
The news comes on the same day Old Bailey bomber Marian Price (McGlinchey) escaped a jail sentence for her role in the Massereene barracks killings, in which two soldiers died.
UUP MLA Tom Elliott said both incidents fuelled unionist perceptions of bias against their community.
"The treatment of McGlinchey and Kelly is in stark contrast to the heavy sentences handed down to many non-republicans in recent months and I fully understand the perception of many in the community that the justice system is being very, very lenient towards republicans," he said.
Mr Kelly said that at the time of his altercation with police he believed he was doing the right thing by "calming a very difficult situation".
DUP MP for north Belfast, Nigel Dodds, said Mr Kelly should have been prosecuted.
He said: "It is astonishing that Gerry Kelly has escaped conviction for his actions in which he deliberately blocked a PSNI Land Rover to prevent it from leaving a tense situation.
"Far from calming the situation as he has spuriously claimed, Kelly’s action resulted directly in a mob attack upon the PSNI vehicle as republican protestors surrounded it and attacked it while police officers were inside."
He added: " For him to escape with nothing more than an informed warning will lead to the perception of imbalance within the justice system particularly in comparison to other cases. This does not inspire confidence in the impartiality of the system.”