Belfast Telegraph

Police reject ex-officer's 'pick and chose' law enforcement claims over public disturbances in Northern Ireland

The PSNI have rejected claims made by a former police officer that they "pick and chose" what laws to enforce in order to avoid a political or violent blacklash.

It comes after a former officer claimed senior cops ordered a blind eye be turned on people drinking in the streets and urinating up walls during times large crowds gather.

Mark, from Banbridge, was speaking on the Stephen Nolan Show on Friday morning in the wake of St Patrick's Day disturbances in the Holylands area of Belfast.

He claimed that officers "took a step back" when crowds of people had gathered and engaged in anti-social behaviour.

He said: "[The trouble] is not just happening on St Patrick's Day, it is happening every Friday and Saturday night, every 11, 12, 13 July, every Halloween.

"As a former police officer I can tell you I was told by senior officers not to take drink off people, not to tackle people urinating in public - as there may be political fall out.

"Around the July holidays you are told to to leave them be - sit back and let them get on with it."

Police, he said, were afraid their actions could affect relationships in the community or spark rioting.

He added: "I was told they had good relationships with political representatives and community representatives and didn't want those to fail, so told to take a step back."

Mark recalled an incident when a group of bandsman were urinating against a wall of an elderly woman's home.

"I was taking their details in preparation of a report and I wasn't told, I was ordered, to step back and leave them be," he said.

"The look on the elderly woman's face as police walked away from a crowd of people urinating on her wall.

"And before people say I'm attacking one side or the other or Orangemen, this is every single weekend.

"In order to avoid trouble police are being told to take a step back or think about what you are doing first of all."

He added: "I am not trying to be down on any group, if we are going to have a policy, then enact it all year round.

"Doesn't matter who they are, or where they are, enforce the policy equally throughout the year.

"People might be stunned by it - but there will be an awful lot of people not so stunned."

In response Superintendent Darrin Jones refuted the claims and said they were "absolutely not the case".

He said: "It is absolutely not the case that police pick and choose when and where to act, whether that’s in relation to the consumption of alcohol in a public place, disorder or any other illegal activity. Where criminal offences are being committed police will act in an appropriate and proportionate manner.

"A significant police operation was in place to help ensure the St Patrick’s Day festivities across Belfast passed off in a largely peaceful fashion and, with the exception of a few, most people who attended the city centre parade, or who celebrated independently, did so in a good natured and respectful fashion.

"Police made a total of 11 arrests in and around the city centre and Holyland areas yesterday for a range of public order offences including disorderly behaviour, resisting arrest and assault on police.

"As each of the people arrested may soon be about to find out - what may initially have seemed like fooling about can sometimes get out of hand and end up in a criminal record which can affect travel, education and employment opportunities in the future."

He continued: "In south Belfast, we worked alongside representatives from both Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Ulster, the Belfast Met, local schools and volunteer organisations, who proactively encouraged students and young people to stay off the streets of the Holyland on St Patrick’s Day. We carried out joint enforcement patrols with Belfast City Council’s Antisocial Behaviour Officers and seized a significant amount alcohol from people drinking in streets and other public areas across the city.

"While there was no repeat of the disgraceful levels of violence and behaviour that we saw in the Holyland on Wednesday night into the early hours of Thursday, into the afternoon and evening there were numerous reports of anti-social, nuisance behaviour as well as sporadic instances of scuffles and fights among various groups of revellers, across the city.

"A clean-up operation will obviously take place today and, in due course, police along with partner agencies will review all of the planning for St Patrick’s Day and it’s associated events and will take away whatever learning there is to improve the experience in future for residents and visitors alike."

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