PSNI widow vows to keep fighting for late husband to receive service medal
A widow has vowed to keep fighting to ensure that a new medal for police who served under terrorist threat is awarded to her late husband.
Dawn Harte is to ask for a face-to-face meeting with the chair of the Honours and Decorations Committee Sir Jonathan Stephens to ask for the criteria which excludes her husband from being eligible for the PSNI Service Medal to be changed.
Constable Brian Harte died after a short battle with cancer in 2012. He had served as an officer for 11 years.
Recently it was revealed that the medal, instituted under Royal Warrant, is to be given to serving and retired officers who completed five years service from February 25, 2009, the date the terrorist threat level in Northern Ireland was officially raised to severe.
This means that hundreds of officers who served after the formation of the PSNI in 2001 but retired before February 2014 will not receive the medal.
One of those was Constable Harte, and his widow Dawn says she was left upset and angry when she saw the criteria.
She told the News Letter: “I’ve decided to fight for my husband. He didn’t choose to die and if he had lived he would have been eligible. My husband was so proud of his service. He risked his life on a daily basis and he helped anybody and everybody.
“Brian has five medals already. I don’t want this just to say my husband has six medals. I think it is something that he earned by his service to the PSNI and to the people that he helped on a daily basis.”
Dawn pointed out that officers faced constant terrorist threat for years before the threat level was officially raised to severe in 2009.
“Operation Banner did not finish until 2007. If we were at peace then why were the Army still here? This criteria also ensures that not a single person who served in the full-time reserve will get the medal.
“We are being told that those eight years from 2001, when officers risked their lives, count for nothing.
“Brian suffered from post traumatic stress disorder because he served, and now that he is dead I am having to fight his corner for him.”
Dawn said she had been inundated with messages of support from serving and retired officers since she first went public with her story.
She said: “I am going to keep fighting. I am going to write to the chair of the Honours and Decorations Committee Sir Jonathan Stephens to ask him for a face-to-face discussion about why this is happening. There are so many officers who were affected by what happened in Northern Ireland who are missing out and they are up in arms about it.
“It has gone beyond just Brian now. The more I hear the stories of retired and serving officers, the more I know how horrifying the situation is.”
Chief Constable Simon Byrne said: “I appreciate that Mrs Harte is disappointed that her late husband will not qualify for the award of the PSNI Service Medal and I have written personally to her.
“The eligibility criteria for the award of the medal, which is a great honour for PSNI, was set by the Honours and Decorations Committee and approved by Her Majesty the Queen. Setting the eligibility criteria, in such circumstances, is always difficult but I respect the decision of the committee.”