Northern Ireland news

'No misconduct' in PSNI handling of officer's affair with ally of gang linked to Ronan Kerr murder

Murdered police officer Ronan Kerr
Brendan Hughes

THE Police Ombudsman has cleared the PSNI of misconduct in its handling of a policewoman's affair with an associate of a gang linked to Constable Ronan Kerr's murder.

Mr Kerr's family made a complaint to the watchdog after The Irish News in 2018 revealed the policewoman in Co Tyrone had been reprimanded but allowed to return to work.

The family raised concerns about the adequacy of the internal PSNI probe, and whether it impacted on the murder investigation.

Mr Kerr, a 25-year-old Catholic policeman, was killed in 2011 when a booby-trap bomb exploded under his car in Omagh.

No-one has been convicted of the murder by dissident republican paramilitaries, although one person was jailed for offences connected to the investigation.

It is understood the man with whom the policewoman was involved is associated with members of a criminal gang linked to the killing.

The criminal gang is suspected of involvement in the theft of cars for dissidents involved in the murder plot.

The policewoman was suspended from duty after the affair emerged and the PSNI launched an investigation.

In 2014, the PSNI sent a file in relation to the case to the Public Prosecution Service, although it decided not to pursue a criminal prosecution.

In 2018, several complaints were upheld at an internal disciplinary hearing and the officer's pay was docked, but she returned to operational duty.

Police said it never referred the matter to the ombudsman because it was "not the subject of a public complaint".

The Police Ombudsman's office in a statement confirmed the conclusion of its investigation.

A spokesman said: "On March 14 2018, The Irish News published a story that a serving police officer had been disciplined following an internal police investigation into her relationship with a man reported to be associated with members of a gang linked to the murder of Constable Ronan Kerr.

"We subsequently received a complaint from Constable Kerr's family which raised concerns relating to the adequacy of the internal police investigation of this matter, and about possible implications for the investigation of Constable Kerr's murder.

"We investigated these matters and found that the internal police investigation had been appropriately thorough, and that police had given consideration to any potential impact on the murder investigation.

"There was no evidence of any misconduct in the way these matters were addressed by police."

A PSNI spokesman said the matter had been investigated in 2013 by its Anti-Corruption Unit.

"The PSNI is committed to ensuring that its officers and staff behave according to the highest ethical standards and we are committed to working with PONI [Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland] to detect and address behaviour which falls below these standards," he said.

Police said their investigation into Mr Kerr's murder is continuing and again urged anyone with information to come forward, "particularly about the origin and sourcing of the component parts of the bomb".

"Since Ronan was killed, detectives have made a significant amount of progress relating to his murder and a series of linked incidents, including attempts to murder other police officers, a bomb attack, arms finds and armed robberies," they said.

"Our resolve and the resolve of Ronan's family remains as strong today as it was on the day that Ronan was killed.

"If you can assist in any way by providing information, please do so. It is the right thing to do. Ronan and his family deserve justice."

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