23/11/2020

No Further Action To Be Taken Against Gerry Kelly

No further action is to be taken against Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly following an alleged breach of the NI Policing Board's Code of Conduct.

Unionist ministers had called for action against the MLA and Policing Board member after it was claimed he had posted to Twitter "glorifying" an event in which a prison officer died.

However, the Justice Minister has announced that, following legal advice, no further action will be taken against Mr Kelly.

Commenting on the decision, Naomi Long said: "Following the tweet about the Maze escape issued by Gerry Kelly on 25 September 2020, a number of people made complaints to the Northern Ireland Policing Board indicating they believed the Board Code of Conduct had been breached. In addition, I received three letters asking me to consider removal of Mr Kelly from the Board.

"The Policing Board carried out an unsuccessful attempt to secure an informal resolution of this matter, as the complainants were unwilling to pursue such a course of action. The Board Chair then passed the matter to me.
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"It is important to note that the test to be applied for whether there has been a breach of the Code is considerably different in law to the test to be applied by me for removal of a member of the Board from office, the latter being significantly higher: any decision by me would also be subject to review by the courts.

"Recognising the unusual requirement that one political representative should be asked to determine whether another political representative appointed by another political party should retain a Board appointment, I sought advice from the Departmental Solicitor. 

"Having considered that advice, it is clear that there are insufficient grounds even for holding an investigation into whether Mr Kelly should be removed from the Policing Board as the tweet, taken in the round with other statements of Mr Kelly, did not explicitly demonstrate a non-commitment to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means or otherwise suggest that there would be grounds to consider statutory removal.

"I have already made it clear that I found the tweet offensive - but I am also clear that in discharge of my functions I must act in line with established legal standards.  On that basis, I have accepted the legal advice provided and will not be taking further action."

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