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We cannot rescind BLM protest fines, insists PSNI

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The Black Lives Matter protest held at Belfast City Hall in June last year

The Black Lives Matter protest held at Belfast City Hall in June last year

Chief Superintendent Bobby Singleton

Chief Superintendent Bobby Singleton

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The Black Lives Matter protest held at Belfast City Hall in June last year

The PSNI have confirmed that neither they nor the Public Prosecution Service have powers to rescind the Black Lives Matter protest fines.

The fines were handed out last June by police for alleged breaches of Covid health regulations preventing outdoor gatherings.

Belfast city councillors noted a response from the police at a recent Strategic Policy and Resources Committee to a letter from the council demanding the fines handed to those protesting in Belfast and Londonderry last June be dropped.

An ombudsman's report into the policing of the two BLM demonstrations was highly critical, stating the PSNI's actions on the day were disproportionate, discriminatory and showed disregard to people's human rights in relation to freedom of expression and protest.

The council, without support from unionist parties, narrowly agreed a motion calling on police and courts to abandon the charges.

The motion, forwarded by People Before Profit, declared council support for the BLM movement and called for "a real and robust racial equality strategy to help tackle the systemic problem of institutional racism."

Chief Superintendent Bobby Singleton responded to the motion on behalf of the Chief Constable's office.

He wrote: "We are advised that existing regulations make no provision for any fixed penalty notices to be rescinded by the police or by the Public Prosecution Service. The only mechanism by which an enforceable penalty registered under Regulation 12 can be set aside is by direction of the Magistrate's court.

"Those individuals who have been reported to the Public Prosecution Service for suspected breach of the regulations will have their cases subjected to independent assessment by the PPS in terms of available evidence and public interest.

"We are further advised that were the police service to interfere with prosecutorial decision-making this would raise real questions about potential breaches of human rights."

Mr Singleton said the service has "struggled" to find the correct balance between upholding the changing restrictions and the rights of all individuals.

He said restrictions were "often a fundamental interference with individual human rights" but were "morally and legally necessary" by the scale of the public health threat posed by Covid-19.

Councillors agreed to write to the courts, pending ratification of the move at full council next week.

Belfast Telegraph


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