Police officers Geoff Ferris and Conor McStravick settle 'conspiracy' case with PSNI
A police employment tribunal in which two detectives claimed they had been the victims of a "conspiracy" against them involving high-ranking PSNI officers has been settled.
Detective Sergeant Geoff Ferris, a former Irish League footballer who famously secured a confession from double killer Hazel Stewart, and Detective Inspector Conor McStravick had brought the case.
They claimed they were unfairly pressured into accepting unwanted posts in Strand Road police station in Londonderry as "punishment" for reporting a senior officer for misconduct in 2011.
The tribunal was postponed suddenly in October after the introduction of last-minute evidence. Minutes before Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr was to be cross-examined, a barrister for the PSNI produced a job application form filled out by Mr McStravick stating that a transfer to the north west would have had a "limited impact" on him.
Mr Kerr said the document showed that "he is well attuned to local policing in that area. It's a very compelling application".
The claimants' barrister, Frank O'Donoghue QC, said he had not been made aware of the document before the hearing.
Noel Kelly, the tribunal's vice chairman, said the delay in producing the document was a "waste in taxpayers' money".
"For it to emerge just before the cross-examination of the relevant witness is scandalous," he said. "I don't want to lose time or waste taxpayers' money.
"The document appears to suggest a procedure of some sort, and that needs to be explored."
Although the case was to be concluded over three days this week, it emerged yesterday the matter had been settled between the parties.
The PSNI and the two claimants made no public comment on the matter.
Mr Ferris, who played for Glenavon, Carrick Rangers and Coleraine, had previously been praised for his work in coaxing a confession out of Stewart.
The notorious double killer, along with then lover Colin Howell, murdered her husband Trevor Buchanan and Lesley, Howell's wife, in 1991 and made the scene look like a double suicide.
The truth only emerged years later when Howell confessed and the pair were tried and convicted.
During his evidence to the tribunal in October, Mr Ferris said that "all things can be traced back to 2011", when he and Mr McStravick "took a stand about a serious issue" over a senior officer at Maydown police station in Derry.
They reported a manager for using a police car for personal use, making sectarian and homophobic comments, and for not properly performing their role.
Both said that afterwards, they faced bullying and were moved out of their roles as serious crime detectives in Maydown, along with a third detective.
Mr Ferris said he also faced obstruction from Human Resources as regards promotion.
The barrister for the PSNI continued to deny any suggestion of a conspiracy throughout the tribunal.