THE Public Prosecution Service has decided not to prosecute 14 people who took part in Black Lives Matter protests last year in Derry and Belfast.
The decision follows a PPS announcement in March this year not to prosecute 24 Sinn Fein members for attending IRA chief Bobby Storey’s funeral on June 30, 2020.
The Derry based North West Migrants Forum organised the BLM protest for Saturday, June 6, 2020 at Guildhall Square.
Police were in attendance and a total of 57 people at the Derry rally were fined by the PSNI.
The PSNI said those who attended the rally were breaching Coronavirus health regulations.
A subsequent report by the NI Policing Board found the reputation of the PSNI had been damaged by the way it handled the rallies in Derry and Belfast and questioned whether the approach officers took on the days was lawful.
It also called for a review of the 57 fines issued in Derry along with 11 in Belfast along with any pending prosecutions.
Assistant director at the PPS Martin Hardy said today there was “no reasonable prospect of conviction for any offence”.
Mr Hardy said the test for prosecution had not been met.
“Decision making on this file included consideration of a range of complex and novel legal issues arising from the coronavirus regulations in place at the time of these protests and relevant human rights considerations,” he said.
“It also involved a careful analysis of the particular circumstances of these protests and the conduct of the individuals reported.
“It was concluded that, in respect of each of the 14 individuals reported, there was no reasonable prospect of conviction for any offence.
“This was on the basis that the evidence would allow the suspects to successfully raise the statutory defence of reasonable excuse.
In these circumstances the test for prosecution was not met.”
In response to the PPS decision over the BLM protests, the PSNI’s Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said: “We acknowledge today’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) decision not to prosecute 14 people in connection with attendance at Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in June 2020.
“Our involvement in policing these events has recently been reviewed by the Police Ombudsman and the NI Policing Board.
“Although a further Ombudsman investigation is ongoing, it is already clear that our response unintentionally damaged the confidence and trust of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Community.
“The Chief Constable has apologised for the anger, upset and frustration caused by our policing operation, and I would like to repeat that apology today.
“It is now over a year since the murder of George Floyd and the worldwide protests that followed, but we are still conscious of the deep hurt felt by members of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Community.
“The PPS decision underlines yet again the difficulties we faced attempting to police during this period.
“Against the backdrop of an unprecedented health crisis and rapidly changing, ambiguous legislation, our objective has always been to help slow the spread of the virus to keep people safe.
“Balancing this against our obligation to safeguard other important rights – such as that to peacefully protest – has not been easy or comfortable.“We have not always got that balance right.
“We are working to implement the lessons learned from this period and are reaching out to those communities with whom we have lost trust.
“We have also established a Community Relations Taskforce to help us address community concerns and are reviewing our policies and practices.
“This work will take time but we remain determined to improve relationships and build confidence and trust in policing among all communities in Northern Ireland.
“We will now take time to consider the implications of the decision by the PPS and will engage with the relevant stakeholders in due course.”Tags: