On the morning the story broke about Daithi McKay’s role in a secret online exchange with a witness who was set to appear at his committee (see here for details), the DUP’s chairman Lord Morrow declared he would be “referring the matter to the PSNI for investigation”.
That was on Thursday, August 18. With no complaint received by police by last Wednesday, August 24, the News Letter had asked the DUP if it still intended to pursue this course of action, to which it responded by confirming that the matter “is being referred to the PSNI”.
As of Monday afternoon, the PSNI had still received no complaint.
However, they said in a statement: “Police have been in liaison with the Assembly Commissioner for Standards and are awaiting correspondence outlining the exact nature of any complaints which have been made.
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“These will then be assessed by police to determine any necessary action.”
Lord Morrow had not specified on what basis the DUP believe Mr McKay’s conduct could be of interest to police.
Separately, as well as any potential investigation by the police or Stormont’s finance committee, the matter is expected to be considered by the Assembly Standards Commissioner, who can look into the conduct of MLAs.
Even though Daithi McKay has now quit, it is still possible to investigate him if a complaint is lodged within a month of his departure.
However, it is unclear if any power exists to punish Mr McKay or his party.
According to the Assembly, the commissioner has no power to punish anyone himself.
Instead, the conclusion of an investigation by him would be presented to the Committee on Standards and Privileges.
It in turn could recommend that the Assembly, as a whole, imposes sanctions.
However, the Assembly’s Standing Orders mention only that sanctions can be imposed on “members”, not ex-members or the parties to which they belong.
Asked if he is indeed investigating, the standards commissioner Douglas Bain said: “The law prohibits me from confirming or denying that a complaint against a particular MLA has been received or from disclosing any information on any complaint under investigation.
“All admissible complaints I receive are investigated thoroughly.”