PSNI Appeals Protest Judgement

The PSNI has said it will appeal a verdict by a judge who said that officers had facilitated illegal loyalist flag protests through a misapprehension regarding the law.

High Court Judge Mr Justice Treacy said a senior officer had been mistaken in believing he was legally prevented from stopping parades and making arrests.

Last year, numerous "flag protests" were held across Northern Ireland, and specifically in Belfast, after Belfast City councillors voted to restrict the flying of the union flag atop City Hall.

In total, over 100 police officers were injured and more than 560 people charged or reported in connection with public disorder that saw groups of people attacking police with bricks, golf balls, bottles, concrete slabs and other missiles.

But Chief Constable Matt Baggot said: "We are studying this judgement carefully but whilst respecting the judge and his decision, it does raise a number of serious operational dilemmas. At the time I said our approach would be measured and responsible and that people would be brought to justice. They have with nearly 700 charged and yet not a member of the public seriously injured. I do not believe we would be in a place today where political dialogue about parading would be possible without such restraint.
News Image
"I am concerned that this judgement may constrain their operational flexibility and create an expectation that police will always be able to stop protests or arrest people at the time, irrespective of the circumstances. To do so may require significant force and undermine our attempts to work with communities. That would be wrong. As such we are appealing the judgement."

The judge also raised the issue of a resident of the predominantly nationalist Short Strand area of east Belfast, who went to court in a bid to address the PSNI's alleged failure to provide assurance that no further parade would take place near his house.

"Throughout the months of the flag protests, our over-riding concern was always safety of all communities and the protection of life," Matt Baggot continued. "This judgement does not appear to take account of the sheer scale of the protests, the intensity of disorder and the potential for escalation. Indeed on one night we had over 80 separate protests to police, without recourse to the army or at that time mutual aid.

"To clarify, I take full responsibility for all operational decisions and I stand over them. Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr was one of a number of gold commanders because of the length of the dispute. I would rather be accused of being 'soft' at the time than see many people injured and the future jeopardised. Justice has been done."


Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

07 February 2019
Ian Ogle Investigation: Man Arrested At Heathrow
Police investigating the brutal murder of east Belfast community worker Ian Ogle have arrested a man on suspicion of murder. The 33-year-old was detained at Heathrow Airport on Wednesday evening, 06 February, before being transferred to Musgrave Police Station in Belfast.
06 February 2019
KFC Staff Threatened At Gun Point
Staff at a KFC outlet in north Belfast have been left terrified after they were threatened at gunpoint. Two men targeted the fast-food restaurant on Brougham Street, Yorkgate, on the evening of Tuesday 05 February.
13 February 2019
No Police Wrongdoing In Belfast Hostel Incident- Ombudsman
A police officer accused of assaulting a man outside a hostel in Belfast has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Police Ombudsman's office. A complaint was lodged after an incident in May last year, when two officers attended the hostel in Belfast City Centre on an unrelated matter.
13 February 2019
Pair Remanded In Custody Over Clogher Murder
A man and a woman have been remanded in custody after appearing in court charged with a County Tyrone murder. Pat Ward, a father-of-four, was found dead in an alleyway in McCrea Park in Clogher on the morning of Saturday 09 February.
08 February 2019
Police Ombudsman: Officer 'Too Quick' To Use Baton In L'Derry Incident
A probe by the Police Ombudsman's office has found that a PSNI officer was "too quick" to use his baton in a L'Derry incident last year, when he struck a man several times without warning.