Northern Ireland Protocol: PSNI invite more suspected protestors for interview - or face potential prosection

The PSNI has hand delivered more letters to Co Armagh bandsmen inviting them to volunteer for interviews in relation to NI Protocol protests.

Thursday, 9th September 2021, 6:30 am
Updated Thursday, 9th September 2021, 4:00 pm

In May police sent up to nine officers at a time to deliver letters to 14 people around Markethill, stating that anti-protocol parades had breached parading and Covid laws and asked recipients to volunteer for an interview.

The latest letter says recipients are “suspected” of having taken part in parades in Markethill in April and May and that police wish to provide them with the opportunity “to offer an account as to your actions on that date”.

It ends: “If no contact is made to the Public Order Enquiry Team within 14 days of the date of this letter then you will be subject to a report to the Public prosecution Service with a potential view to prosecution.”

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A masked loyalist band make their way through Markethill during a protest event against the Irish Sea Customs Border, and 'two-tier policing'. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

After the previous letters, posters appeared stating: “Markethill demands fair and equitable policing” with an image of the Bobby Storey funeral.

A source close to the bandsmen said: “It is the same pattern as before. There were four more people approached with the same letter.”

He said they had got the impression that there would be no further action. “But then more letters come. The loyalist community has no trust whatsoever in the PSNI. Things had calmed down but this has stimulated quite a reaction again.”

DUP MLA and Policing Board member Trevor Clarke said: “I think the PSNI should apply the same test to the recipients of these letters as the Public Prosecution Service applied to the Black Lives Matter protestors. People have the right to protest.”

Last month the PSNI asked for 72 Covid fines it issued to Black Lives Matters protestors to be refunded after the Police Ombudsman found discrimination in police handling of their protests. In May DUP MLA William Irwin claimed the PSNI actions in Markethill stood “in stark contrast” to handling of pro-Palestinian parades in Armagh and Belfast.

The PSNI responded that organisers are required by law to inform the Parades Commission of any plans to parade. “If an un-notified parade occurs or a Parades Commission determination is breached, police officers are obliged to gather evidence relating to any potential breaches of the Public Processions (NI) Act 1998m” it said. “This may include inviting individuals to voluntarily attend for interview. Where we can we will always facilitate people’s right to protest peacefully and lawfully.”


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