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Chief Constable Simon Byrne welcomes external probe into PSNI's handling of Storey funeral

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PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne

PA

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne

The Policing Board has agreed to hold an outside inspection into the PSNI's handling of the Bobby Storey funeral.

The board met yesterday in public session, having originally said only a private meeting would be held.

Chief Constable Simon Byrne and Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd were grilled on a range of issues relating to a Public Prosecution Service statement on the policing of four funerals, including that of the senior republican who died last June.

Policing Board chair Doug Garrett said following the discussions it had agreed to ask the Justice Minister to commission Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary to undertake a "bespoke thematic inspection" of the handling of the funeral.

Mr Garrett said the inspection would look at the "PSNI policy and procedures around police engagement with organisers and consistency of approach given the findings of the PPS".

Mr Byrne told the Policing Board he welcomed the planned review.

The PPS had pointed to police engagement with the funeral planners as one reason why any prosecution would likely fail.

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Request: Policing Board chairman Doug Garrett

Request: Policing Board chairman Doug Garrett

Request: Policing Board chairman Doug Garrett

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"It's a huge regret about the public reaction to the PPS decision, we were surprised," Mr Byrne said.

"The PPS draw their conclusions, but this is what we're wrestling with now.

"To what extent could we have foreseen that by speaking to the organiser and the event management company, this would afford this excuse.

"This is at the heart of what HMIC will want to get to. If we had anticipated where we would have ended up, we may have taken an entirely different approach."

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly did not attend the meeting but party colleague Sean Lynch asked if the fines issued to Black Lives Matter protesters would now be rescinded.

Mr Byrne said police had been advised they did not have the authority to rescind fines and it was for individuals to challenge them "or for the PPS, if they believe they have been issued inappropriately, to withdraw it".

"I know there are different opinions in relation to this but that is the advice we have been told to follow," he added.

The DUP's Joanne Bunting asked how the PSNI intended to restore confidence in policing in the wake of recent events.

Mrs Bunting also asked how people could expected to "abide by the guidance" going forward, and what the police intended to do to restore the messaging around Covid.

"People were told to abide by the law and they were told if they didn't we would be looking at enforcement opinions on the back of that," said Mr Todd.

"I as the 'gold command' don't get into that fine conversation with individuals about what steps they are or aren't taking.

"That encourages the kind of thing we are being unfairly criticised for at the minute. My assumption on it was it was going to be very difficult if not impossible, and the likelihood was there would be a degree of breach."

In relation to the plan the PPS say police were given on the morning of the funeral, he added: "It was prepared by an events management company and sent to us by the organisers, but no, I didn't agree to it, I didn't approve it, I didn't critique it, I didn't respond to it.

"I didn't want to do that because I was very clear about keeping the police to our role in this."

The Assistant Chief Constable added it was always his assessment there were going to be more than the permitted numbers at the funeral.


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