Fedster + 1,307 Posted May 17, 2021 Share Posted May 17, 2021 Policing of funerals during the pandemic in Northern Ireland was difficult says HMIC review. Date - 17th May 2021 By - Gary Mason The PSNI’s legal services department couldn’t agree a definition of a funeral under the rapidly changing COVID-19 regulations ahead of Bobby Storey’s controversial burial it has emerged. In clearing the force of blame the HMICFRS report into the event concluded that a combination of the sensitivities around policing major funerals in Northern Ireland and confusing regulations which changed 12 times were major factors in the force’s approach. The inspectorate concluded that even if it will attract criticism to do so, “the PSNI must sometimes prioritise maintaining public order and protecting people from violence over strict enforcement of the law.” The PSNI developed guidance to help officers police funerals during the pandemic but the Regulations didn’t define a funeral. It wasn’t clear whether it would include a wake, a procession with the deceased’s body from one venue to another, or a gathering taking place immediately after a burial or cremation. The HMIC concluded: “This made it extremely difficult to apply the law in funerals comprising several stages such as Mr Storey’s.” In April 2020, the PSNI sought advice on the definition of funerals from its Legal Services Department and other sources. But this proved unhelpful because a definition couldn’t be agreed. The funeral saw about 2,000 mourners line the streets in west Belfast last June at a time when strict Covid-19 regulations were in place. The HMIC review was launched after it was announced prosecutions could not be brought against 24 Sinn Fein politicians who attended the funeral. This prompted allegations of force bias in the way it had been policed. The Gold Commander for the event told the Inspectorate it was clear that the stewarding wasn’t working as anticipated. As the cortège travelled between St Agnes’s Church and Milltown Cemetery, an unexpected long procession formed behind. But it didn’t prompt the PSNI to change its Gold Strategy. The Gold Commander subsequently stated, on reflection, they had “no idea” what they could have done differently The public order public safety adviser (POPSA; previously known as a public order tactical adviser) to the Silver Commander told the inspectorate the PSNI would only have intervened on the day in extreme circumstances. “Any intervention would have created significant risks of violence, public disorder and damage to community relations,” he said. An experienced inspector who had worked in the community in different roles for many years and was reporting back to the Silver commander from a surveillance police vehicle on the day, told the Inspectorate there “was a sense that the police were being tolerated.” They added: “I knew it was the sort of gathering that any attempt on my part to stop and engage would not have gone down well. I was getting a clear picture from the steely looks I was getting”. They explained that it was a tense situation and wasn’t one where police officers would engage with mourners to encourage and explain that they needed to comply with the Regulations. Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr who led the review said: “The PSNI faced the complex challenge of policing a politically-sensitive funeral while also trying to interpret the confusing Covid-19 regulations. “The service took a sensitive approach, and ultimately achieved what it set out to do – prioritising public security over compliance with the regulations. “Due to the complex and frequently changing Covid-19 regulations, we are not confident that there was enough evidence to prove to a court that any of the attendees at Bobby Storey’s funeral had knowingly committed an offence – and we therefore agree with the decision not to prosecute.” View On Police Oracle Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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