PSNI whistleblowers claim they were victims of jobs ‘conspiracy’

PSNI officer Geoff Ferris, one of two men taking his employers to tribunal
PSNI officer Geoff Ferris, one of two men taking his employers to tribunal

Police have said there was no malice in the recruitment process which saw two whistleblowers forced to accept a post which neither of them wanted.

Detective sergeants Conor McStravick and Geoff Ferris, who played a key role in gaining a confession from convicted Castlerock killer Hazel Stewart, brought their victimisation case against the PSNI to a tribunal in Belfast.

In 2011 the pair blew the whistle on a senior officer who they claimed was behaving in an inappropriate manner.

Mr McStravick is a long-serving police officer who began his career with the Met in London in 1989 and transferred to the PSNI in 2002.

Geoff Ferris started out with the RUC in 1984 and was also known in footballing circles as a player with Glenavon, Coleraine and Carrick.

Both men were with the Major Investigation Team at Maydown in Co Londonderry at the time when they made a series of protected disclosures.

They accused a senior officer of morally, ethically and politically inappropriate behaviour in relation to several murder investigations. This included sectarian chanting and whistling, bullying and making homophobic comments, as well as an overall inability to fulfil his role.

Following the disclosures, which didn’t lead to any action against the officer or a second senior ranking officer whom they claim was protecting him, both Mr McStravick and Mr Ferris had to move to another department.

The pair claimed they were blocked in their attempts to move back to their old department in the same building in Londonderry, and were overlooked in favour of an officer making a two-hour journey from Enniskillen.

They brought a tribunal against the PSNI for victimisation which was upheld in January 2015. Just eight days after the verdict the men claim they were again the victims of a ‘conspiracy’ when they were the only two names put forward for a three-month transfer to Strand Road station.

A police investigation ruled the officers hadn’t been unfairly treated, but admitted there had been issues with “poor communication”.

This prompted the most recent tribunal.

Representing the two officers in the case against the PSNI, Mr O’Donoghue said it demonstrated “an institution able to inflict insidious distress”.

Taking the stand on Monday Mr McStravick said he believed he and Mr Ferris were being forced to take the temporary promotion as “punishment” even though he claimed there wasn’t a pressing need for a detective inspector.

The PSNI’s legal representative, Mr Sands, accused Mr McStravick of being “precious” and “paranoid” about the transfer to Strand Road.

He said Mr McStravick was “blinded by what had happened in the past”.

“Everything that happens that you’re not pleased about isn’t because you made disclosures in 2011,” he added.

The tribunal continues.