Solicitor confirms mourners seeking legal action to review PPS 'warnings' after funeral attendance

MOURNERS who received a warning by prosecutors after attending a funeral during lockdown have sought legal advice following the decision not to prosecute those at the Bobby Storey funeral.

Andrew Russell & Co Solicitors yesterday confirmed they represent people seeking a review of their "informed warning" by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

The individuals attended the funeral of a young man in east Belfast last June.

An informed warning requires people to accept they are "guilty of the offence alleged".

The Belfast law firm said the PPS decision to issue the warnings to his clients while failing to prosecute those who attended Mr Storey's funeral "gives rise to a concern there has been a disparity in the way these cases were considered".

"We will be requesting the PPS to undertake a further review of the decisions relating to our clients," they said.

Separately, two people are to be prosecuted following their attendance at the funeral of former Sinn Féin councillor Francie McNally in April last year.

Online images of a large crowd gathered at Mr McNallu's funeral procession in Ballinderry provoked outrage,

with police saying mourners “blatantly ignored” advice to limit coronavirus spread.

Superintendent Mike Baird said at the time: "It is very disappointing to see some people blatantly ignored health advice and breached current legislation by attending the funeral and, in doing so, they not only put themselves at risk but also put at risk close family members of the deceased and those officiating at the funeral."

Warnings or diversionary measures were also recommended for another funeral in west Belfast last year.

Coronavirus regulations regarding funerals were changed on the eve of Mr Storey's funeral, allowing increasing numbers to attend.

They were further amended two days later.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill was among 24 interviewed by police over the scenes at Mr Storey's funeral in west Belfast last June.

Announcing the prosecution decisions, PPS director Stephen Herron yesterday acknowledged "widespread public concern" around events on June 30 2020.

However he said the regulations had become "extremely difficult to navigate", noting there had been nine different amendments before the funeral took place.

"Prosecutions can only be brought where the available evidence provides a reasonable prospect of proving, beyond reasonable doubt, a breach of the criminal law," he said.

"As a result of the factors considered we have concluded that the prosecution could not prove any breach of the regulations to the required standard."

Ms O'Neill said she has "worked tirelessly" to rebuild trust with the public.

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