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Northern Ireland news

PSNI private policing bill tops £300,000 in three years

Police at boxer Carl Frampton's world title fight in Belfast's Titanic Quarter in 2014
Brendan Hughes

THE PSNI has billed firms more than £300,000 in the past three years for private policing such as sporting fixtures, music concerts and film sets.

Hit shows including Game of Thrones, Line of Duty and Derry Girls have been among those charged for policing services while filming in Northern Ireland.

Golf, boxing, soccer and cycling events have also been billed, as well as concerts such as Belfast outdoor music festival Belsonic.

A total of £304,934 has been charged by the PSNI for policing private events between 2016-17 and January this year, according to figures obtained by The Irish News.

The PSNI's private policing bill has more than doubled in the space of year, with £172,693 charged in 2017-18 compared to £66,639 in 2016-17.

Details of the private events charged by the PSNI were obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

Among those billed for policing were Linfield Football Club (£26,759) and PGA European Tour (£43,104) in 2017-18, while Belsonic was charged £9,640 in 2018-19.

Film crews were most regularly charged for policing services, including those working on the fifth series of hit BBC crime drama Line of Duty who were billed £1,792.

Fire and Blood Productions, which works on HBO fantasy drama Game of Thrones, was billed £35,819 and film crews for Channel 4 comedy Derry Girls were charged £5,968.

No GAA matches feature within the list of events billed for policing services by the PSNI.

A police spokeswoman said they support safety advisory groups alongside ambulance and fire service officials to manage safety at events, but "we do not provide a direct service".

"In line with legislative practice, and the Charging for Special Policing Services policy, agreed with the Northern Ireland Policing Board, charges are only recovered by police for resources being deployed within stadia for matches or events and generally not in relation to the wider area of matches/events," she added.

"We liaise closely with the GAA, who manage the majority of demand within their stadia by utilising their own stewards. This is common across most sports and events."

In 2015 The Irish News revealed police had published a new policy detailing how they would charge private events for operations deemed over and above core policing services.

However, the policy faced some criticism as it left amateur sport and charity events open to charges – but not parades.

It categorised parades alongside legal protests and constitutional events as "statutory events reflecting constitutional rights or processes" that would not be charged.

The guidelines followed criticism of police for waiving most of their bill for Belfast boxer Carl Frampton's world title fight in 2014, charging organisers just £5,000 out of £35,585.

The PSNI defended slashing its policing bill, saying the decision was in line with its policies.

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