Published Date: 16.01.2015
The PSNI should keep a written record of the main points that have been discussed during meetings held between senior officers and community representatives, according to the Police Ombudsman Dr. Michael Maguire.
The recommendation followed an investigation into a complaint that the police had acted improperly in the arrest of a man because of his attendance at what they deemed to be an illegal parade in Belfast city centre in January 2013.
The man alleged that in the days prior to the parade the police had met on two occasions with representatives of those organising the march. Following these meetings he stated that it was his understanding an agreement had been reached that the parade could take place in return for a guarantee of no violence.
The man alleged that the police had not only reneged on their part of the agreement, but that they were also withholding their minutes of the meetings from the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).
The police denied that any agreement had been reached, and that they held no minutes of the meetings.
Investigators from the Ombudsman’s office were able to establish that meetings between the police and community representatives had taken place, but that the police had not kept a written record of what was discussed at them. They relied instead on the memories of the officers who attended the meetings.
The Ombudsman has recommended this practice should stop.
“Although we found that there was no misconduct on behalf of the police, the absence of any written record of what was discussed made it more difficult for them to counter the allegations,” said Dr Maguire.
“Given the high profile nature of some of these meetings it is possible that similar disagreements may arise again. It is important that the police have a clear record, made at the time, of the main points of discussion. Not only would this help the police, it would help with community confidence in their work, and it would also aid any similar investigations carried out by the PPS or the Ombudsman’s Office.
I have therefore recommended that when senior police officers attend meetings with community representatives in the future that a written record of the salient points discussed at the meetings should be made and retained on file by the PSNI.”