A senior judge has lashed out at the police, warning them to stand on their “own two feet” and distance themselves from self-styled community representatives.
Mr Justice Weir criticised the PSNI for relying on advice from unelected community spokesmen.
The judge claimed that he had a “considerable sense of unease” concerning the credence that had been given to views from certain groups or individuals.
“The police would do very well to distance themselves from them, rather than getting in with them,” said Judge Weir.
The controversial comments came as prosecution lawyers outlined objections to bail for two defendants at Belfast High Court yesterday. In one case, barrister Tessa Kitson said that the PSNI had been “advised that there would be public disturbances” if 30-year-old north Belfast man Stephen Fegan was granted bail.
Fegan, from Manor Street, is currently in custody on a grievous bodily harm charge.
Although he refused bail, Judge Weir said that his decision had not been influenced by the community concerns put forward by the police, adding that it was “the job of the police to protect all citizens from any such public disturbance.”
“I think the police should be standing on their own two feet,” the judge added.
“I don't want to hear anything of the sort again.”
In another bail hearing for Robert Scott (35), who has been charged with the murder of east Belfast man Richard Hicking, the judge again raised the issue of relying on unnamed community representatives.
Prosecution QC Terence Mooney told the court that “upon reflection” he did not think it right to rely on or mention the advice given to police.
Meanwhile, North Belfast SDLP MLA and lawyer Alban Maginness said he “sympathised” with Judge Weir’s comments.
He said: “There has been too close an association on so-called community groups. So, I would be sympathetic to what the judge has said.”
In a statement, a spokesman for the PSNI said: “Police will consider the comments made by Judge Weir during an application for High Court bail.”