Belfast Telegraph

More than £23,000 worth of gifts given to PSNI officers over five years

By Michael Sheils McNamee

A new analysis of figures released to the Belfast Telegraph has shown more than £23,000 worth of gifts were given to the PSNI over a five-year period.

A dozen burgers, a book on mindfulness, and two Yankee candles were among the unusual array of presents offered to police officers in Northern Ireland last year.

Gifts were offered from a variety of people and groups who come into contact with the PSNI.

Overall, the vast majority of gifts were relatively cheap items - like alcohol or chocolate - offered to police by members of the public as a token of gratitude for their assistance.

These were frequently accepted on the grounds that officers did not wish to cause offence.

Since the start of 2017, examples of gifts have included chocolates given to officers as a thank you for attending a primary school; a bottle of prosecco offered for guarding a patient at the Royal Victoria Hospital; and a bottle of whiskey given by the Lancashire Police.

Gift offers were frequently declined by police when it was felt accepting would be inappropriate.

In February 2016 an offer of a meal voucher for Frech's Bistro in Clough, Downpatrick, was rejected as the officer felt they were "only doing [their] job" and the offer "whilst well intentioned would be inappropriate to accept".

Among the gifts rejected in 2017 were two gift vouchers worth £200, and a £500 package to visit the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

To comply with transparency regulation the PSNI release information on gifts it has receive on a monthly basis, and has guidelines on what can and cannot be accepted.

A complete set of figures has been released to the Belfast Telegraph following a freedom of information request, and shows gifts given between the start of 2013 up to the end of October 2017.

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, a PSNI spokesman said: "The Police Service has a clear policy for the acceptance of gifts, gratuities and hospitality and all officers are made aware of it.

"The policy sets out the circumstances in which gifts may be accepted, and those in which they should be refused. A general principle is that the acceptance of any gift, gratuity or hospitality cannot only result in personal gain. Any gifts that may be received must be officially recorded."

The PSNI's guidelines state it is "important that all officers and staff understand how the acceptance of gifts, gratuities or hospitality can undermine personal and professional integrity" and that the PSNI has a responsibility to reinforce the importance of preventing allegations of corrupt practices or improper relationships with any member of the public or corporate body arising from the offer or acceptance of any gift, gratuity or hospitality".

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