PSNI officer had affair with associate of gang linked to Ronan Kerr's murder
A POLICEWOMAN has been reprimanded but allowed to return to work after having an inappropriate sexual relationship with an associate of a criminal gang linked to PSNI officer Ronan Kerr's murder.
The officer was suspended from duty some years ago after the affair emerged and the PSNI launched an investigation.
She was brought before an internal misconduct hearing last month where she was sanctioned, including having her pay docked.
However the policewoman is now free to return to operational duty.
It is understood the man whom the PSNI officer was romantically involved with is associated with members of a criminal gang linked to constable Ronan Kerr's murder.
The 25-year-old Catholic PSNI officer was killed in April 2011 when a booby-trap bomb exploded under his car in Omagh.
No-one has ever been charged with his murder. Dissident republican paramilitaries have been blamed for the killing.
The criminal gang is suspected of involvement in the theft of cars for dissidents involved in the murder plot.
The misconduct proceedings against the policewoman were held around six weeks ago.
The PSNI had in 2014 sent a file in relation to the case to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS), but it decided not to pursue a prosecution.
A number of misconduct charges – two 'integrity matters' and two 'professional duty matters' – were upheld at the internal disciplinary.
On professional duty matters, the officer was found to have engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a person involved in and associated with criminality.
The policewoman was also reprimanded for failing to abide by property management procedures and retaining items of evidence at her home.
On integrity matters, the officer was found to have received information about persons of interest to police potentially breaching bail but failed notify colleagues. Another reprimand sanction was imposed.
The officer also breached police bail conditions placed on her, for which the hearing imposed a year-long pay reduction equating to more than £9,000.
The policewoman had initially been suspended while the PSNI carried out a criminal investigation, but she was later allowed to return to office-based work.
However, following the internal disciplinary, the PSNI has confirmed the officer has now returned to an operational role.
Police said the matter was never referred to the Police Ombudsman because it was "not the subject of a public complaint".
The Irish News asked the PSNI why there were not more serious sanctions against the policewoman.
In a statement Chief Superintendent John McCaughan, head of PSNI's professional standards department, said: "Following an investigation into the actions of a police officer by the Police Service of Northern Ireland's professional standards department a file was prepared and sent to the Public Prosecution Service.
"They directed no prosecution in relation to all matters reported to them.
"The matter was not the subject of a public complaint, thus it was not referred to the Police Ombudsman.
"Following that, an officer appeared before misconduct proceedings in February 2018 to answer a number of charges.
"The charges were proven and the officer received a number of disciplinary sanctions as a result.
"As the misconduct proceedings have now finalised, the officer has returned to an operational role.
"The duty status of the officer was kept under review throughout the process.
"Decisions as to whether or not an officer required to be suspended from duty were guided by the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2000 in this particular case.
"This places an obligation upon the service to keep the duty status of an officer under continual review, to ensure that any decision is lawful, necessary and proportionate.
"An officer was initially suspended at the commencement of the investigation, and later returned to a non-public facing, outside the evidential chain until the misconduct proceedings finished."
A PPS spokeswoman said: "The PPS received a file from the PSNI in February 2014 concerning a number of allegations against a serving police officer, including misconduct in public office and attempting to do an act with intent to pervert the course of justice.
"After careful consideration of all the available evidence in this case, it was concluded in September 2014 that the test for prosecution was not met on the grounds of insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction."