Police Ombudsman’s Office outlines focus of investigation

Published Date: 03.07.2020

The Police Ombudsman’s Office has outlined in greater detail the focus of its current investigation into how police dealt with a series of public protests during the early part of the ‘lockdown’ period.

Several weeks ago, the Office disclosed that an investigation was underway into how the PSNI had played its part in enforcing Coronavirus Public Health Regulations at large public gatherings.

Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson said the investigation began following complaints from members of the public who had attended ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests.

“There has been particular concern about how consistent police were in their issuing of Fixed Penalty Notices, including suggestions of discriminatory practice

“It is in the public interest that there be an independent assessment as to whether the associated police policy was applied consistently,” she said.

The Office has now written to those who contacted it, explaining that its investigation is focusing on six protests which were held in the fortnight between 31 May and 13 June.

The investigation is looking at the policy and guidelines put in place prior to these events by the police for their part in enforcing the Covid Public Health Regulations by way of issuing Fixed Penalty Notices.

It is seeking to determine if there were any modifications to this policy, and if so, why.

It is also considering how effective police were in communicating this policy to their officers.

The events which are being considered during the investigation are:

  •        the ‘Black Lives Matter” protests at Customs House Square in Belfast and at Guildhall Square in Derry/Londonderry on 6 June,
  •        the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests at Writers’ Square in Belfast on 31 May, and at Belfast City Hall on 1 and 3 June,
  •        and the ‘Protect our Monuments’ event at Belfast City Hall on 13 June.

“If there any lessons to be learned, we will identify them and promptly make recommendations to police explaining how they might improve their policy,” said Mrs Anderson. 

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