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Police trainee sacked over Hitler spoof in legal appeal

By Alan Erwin

Published 28/06/2016

Parody: ‘Hitler’ in Downfall
Parody: ‘Hitler’ in Downfall

A student police officer sacked over a subtitled parody of a movie portraying Hitler's last days is taking legal action in a bid to be reinstated.

Jonathan Armstong brought a challenge against the PSNI for dismissing him based on a depiction of the famous rant scene from Downfall.

The film, set in a Berlin bunker at the end of World War Two, inspired a wave of online spoofs versions of what triggered the Nazi dictator's rage.

Mr Armstrong was allegedly involved in one parody in which the subtitled dialogue poked fun at associates and elements of the regime at the PSNI's Garnerville College. He was dismissed as a trainee officer in April last year.

Lawyers representing him claimed the move was unreasonable and procedurally unfair.

The parody was played in full at the High Court in Belfast yesterday as the judicial review challenge got under way.

Mr Justice Maguire watched the scene where Bruno Ganz, playing Hitler, rants in German.

He then retired to chambers for a second viewing and to study the accompanying subtitles.

Later, it was confirmed in court that the legal action was set to be adjourned so that an internal appeal process could be completed.

Peter Coll QC, for Mr Armstrong, told the judge: "At this stage he stands dismissed from within the PSNI. He has an opportunity to appeal that to a higher level within the PSNI."

Three reports prepared by different police officers are to be replaced by one that will go before an Assistant Chief Constable. Depending on the outcome of the appeal, the judicial review may be resumed after the summer.

Mr Coll also referred to PSNI concerns that the issue which led to his client's dismissal may impact on the public perception of policing in Northern Ireland.

He insisted: "The applicant is concerned that any reporting of the matter should not be used against him at the appeals stage."

Agreeing to adjourn the case until September, Mr Justice Maguire stressed the need to ensure any reporting of the short hearing did not disadvantage Mr Armstrong's appeal.

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