‘Confusing and inconsistent’ laws prevented Bobby Storey funeral prosecution

Northern Ireland’s Chief Constable Simon Byrne has contended the “ambiguity” of the coronavirus regulations is to blame for prosecutions not being brought against 24 people who were charged over their attendance at the funeral of senior republican Bobby Storey last year.

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 11:54 am

Repeating that he has no intention of resigning despite calls for him to do so by First Minister Arlene Foster, he told BBC Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan Show he is determined to do his job.

“At the end of the day the key issue that influenced the decision of the Public Prosecution Service was actually ambiguity around the laws that were in force at the time, not the actions of the police service,” he said.

“It’s been difficult policing Covid here, and indeed across the UK as you’ve seen, with trying to make sense of fast-paced law.

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“We’re quite clear that last year at the funeral we thought there were breaches of the health protection regulations and we policed the funeral, and then investigated it on that basis.

“Neither myself nor any of the officers that were involved in this planning operation or policing operation have done anything but follow national good practice.”

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne also defended his officers’ actions in liaising with organisers of the funeral of Bobby Storey ahead of the event last June.

“There was planning of the funeral after Mr Storey died, there was some contact between the senior officers that we had appointed to police the funeral, and that continued until right up until the day, that would be normal practice, and indeed we would have been criticised had we not spoken to the organisers at an event like this where we assumed there could well be large numbers of people,” he told the Stephen Nolan Show.

“The critical thing to remember here that when you look at the findings from the director of public prosecutions, he is really clear that actually regardless of what we did or didn’t do, which we still stand behind, was the fact that on the day the law was confusing and inconsistent, and that inhibited his ability to bring a prosecution.”

Simon Byrne also said he is capable of rebuilding trust and relationships despite First Minister Arlene Foster’s call for his resignation.

“I came here to do a job about growing neighbourhood policing, which is the one thing that politicians from across the political spectrum are agreeing on, we have started to do that and I am determined to keep that mission,” he told BBC Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan Show.

“At the end of the day, we’ll have to see where events take us over the next few days in terms of people fully understanding what’s gone on before we rush to judgment and, equally, I am quite sure that when things settle down I am capable of rebuilding trust and relationships across Northern Ireland.”