Belfast Telegraph

PPS still to decide whether to prosecute Gerry Kelly over car clamp incident

By Victoria Leonard

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has not yet decided whether to prosecute Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly over the removal of a wheel clamp with bolt cutters - nearly eight months after the incident.

The North Belfast politician, who is his party's policing spokesperson, faced calls to resign after he was filmed taking off the clamp in Belfast city centre following a visit to a gym on February 2, 2018.

Video footage of the incident showed Mr Kelly coming out of a silver car in Exchange Street, behind the Metropolitan Arts Centre. On the driver's window of the vehicle is a large 'Stop' sign, warning the motorist about the clamp.

The MLA is seen bending down to lift a set of bolt cutters, before appearing to work at a chain under the car. He then appears to remove the orange clamp from the wheel, before resting it against a nearby wall.

The maximum sentence for criminal damage in Northern Ireland varies from a community order to 12 months in custody and a compensation order.

After the incident, Mr Kelly said he had made an "on the spot" decision to remove the clamp while he was "under pressure to get to the talks meetings" at Stormont.

When asked for an update on the case, a PPS spokesperson said they were at an "advanced stage" of the decision-making process - but added they were still awaiting further material from the PSNI.

She stated: "PPS consideration of a file received from police in relation to an allegation of criminal damage against a 65-year-old man has reached an advanced stage. We are awaiting further material from the PSNI and a decision will issue in due course."

A PSNI spokesperson said: "A full investigation took place with respect to this incident and understandably this takes time to complete.

"A file was given to the PPS on April 11, 2018.

"A request for further information was received from the PPS on July 17, 2018 and numerous pieces of additional information were supplied at that time.

"PSNI is currently seeking legal opinion on other related matters and await that advice."

The managing director of the Parking and Enforcement Agency Ltd (PEA), Thomas Harrington, said the company considered the matter "closed as far as we are concerned".

"Mr Kelly made a payment to settle the outstanding clamp fee and to cover the damage done to the chain itself," he said.

Despite repeated requests for comment, no response had been received from Mr Kelly or Sinn Fein at the time of going to press.

In a statement released in February, Mr Kelly said: "I saw that my car had been clamped.

"I phoned the number on the notice and the only response I got was music.

"I then went into the Mac (theatre in Belfast) and asked had they another number for the company. I immediately rang that number and this number was out of use.

"I was under pressure to get to the talks meetings. I remembered that the gym had a set of bolt cutters and I borrowed them. Let me add that staff at the gym were not aware what I was using the bolt cutters for.

"I then removed the clamp.

"I made an on-the-spot decision which I now regret."

Mr Kelly also said he had contacted PEA, paid a fine, and that the issue had "been resolved".

He was interviewed by the PSNI over an allegation of criminal damage, and said on Twitter that the meeting with police had been a "voluntary arrangement".

He told BBC Talkback he had paid a £100 fine and a further £50 to PEA for damage to the clamp. He said: "I haven't done it before. People think I carry bolt cutters in my car - to be clear this is the first time I've done it and won't be doing it again."

Belfast Telegraph

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