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Student police officer sacked over subtitled Hitler parody video in legal bid to be reinstated

By Alan Erwin

Published 27/06/2016

Downfall, a German film released in 2004 about Hitler's last days, stars Bruno Ganz
Downfall, a German film released in 2004 about Hitler's last days, stars Bruno Ganz

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 has brought a challenge against the PSNI for dismissing him based on a depiction of the famous rant scene from the acclaimed film Downfall.

The climactic clip, set in the Berlin bunker at the end of World War II, has inspired a wave of online spoof versions of what triggered the Nazi dictator's rage.

Mr Armstrong was allegedly involved in one parody where the subtitled dialogue pokes fun at associates and elements of the regime at the PSNI's Garnerville College.

He was dismissed as a trainee police officer in April last year. Lawyers representing him claim the move was unreasonable and procedurally unfair. The parody was played in full at the High Court in Belfast today as the judicial review challenge got underway. Mr Justice Maguire watched the movie scene where actor 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 is to be adjourned so that an internal appeal process can 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 and 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.

But he insisted: "The applicant is concerned that any reporting of the matter today should not be used against him by the police at the appeals stage."

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

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