Sean Graham Bookies arrest: Probationary PSNI officers still under investigation after seven months - and could face prosecution

Two probationary police officers who made a controversial arrest at a terror commemoration on the Ormeau Road in Belfast could face prosecution for their actions, it has been revealed.

Friday, 10th September 2021, 6:30 am
Updated Friday, 10th September 2021, 1:35 pm

And the Police Federation said it was taking a judicial review against the Chief Constable as the PSNI probe into their conduct is still ongoing after seven months.

The arrest took place on February 5, after event to mark the murder of five people by the UDA outside Sean Graham Bookmakers in 1992.

Two passing probationary PSNI officers were directed to intervene by superior officers, due to concerns that Covid regulations were being breached. The PSNI said bodycam shows up to 40 people attended, when the limit on public gatherings was six.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Police arrested a victim of a Troubles shooting on suspicion of disorderly behaviour in the Ormeau Road area of Belfast in February. Photo: Pacemaker.

The two officers approached a survivor of the atrocity about covid regulations, Mark Sykes, and shortly afterwards arrested him on suspicion of disorderly behaviour and resisting arrest. But after an outcry from nationalist representatives, Chief Constable Simon Byrnes suspended one officer involved, ‘repositioned’ another and apologised for their conduct.

The Police Ombudsman spokesman said yesterday it has “submitted a file of evidence to the Public Prosecution Service in relation to the actions of two police officers” and are “awaiting a direction from the PPS”. At the conclusion of a an investigation, he said, “if it is determined that a criminal offence may have been committed by a member of the police service, the Ombudsman is obliged to send a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Director will then independently determine if a prosecution should follow”.

Police Federation NI (PFNI) Chairman Mark Lindsay said their concerns have resulted in them taking a Judicial Review against the Chief Constable as he believed his actions against the officers was “disproportionate”.

“PFNI have concerns that this matter still has not been dealt with, despite being seven months old,” he added. “That is seven months officers have had their careers and lives held in abeyance.

“Delays in such processes are unacceptable and do have a psychological impact on officers who day and daily go out to serve all our communities to the best of their ability.”

The PSNI responded that the matter remains with the Police Ombudsman and that its investigations are ongoing.

Policing Board member and DUP MLA Trevor Clarke said: “It is concerning that after so long the PSNI have not concluded their investigation into this matter.

I believed the Chief Constable’s actions at the time were wrong and am concerned for the two officers involved. I will now be raising this at the next public session with the Chief Constable.”

In February the PSNI said potential offences during the incident included disorderly behaviour, resisting arrest, breach of covid regulations and the question of how a police officer came to suffer an injury to the face. (There is no suggestion Mr Sykes was linked to the injury).

Asked if it has charged any civilians in relation to the incident after seven months, the PSNI said its investigations are still ongoing.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP were particularly exercised by the arrest as they perceived it was heavy handed in comparison to the PSNI failure to make arrests during a UVF show of strength in east Belfast the week previous.

Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the arrest of Mr Sykes marked “a watershed moment for public confidence in policing”.

MORE NEWS:

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to newsletter.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Ben Lowry

Acting Editor