Northern Ireland

Ormeau Road police officer disciplined, despite High Court ruling

Mark Sykes who was detained by police at the Ormeau Road bookies memorial in February. Picture by Pacemaker
The controversy erupted after the arrest of Mark Sykes in 2021. PICTURE: PACEMAKER

A police constable involved in controversy at a Troubles memorial event in south Belfast three years ago has been disciplined by the PSNI, despite a High Court ruling that found action against him was unlawful.

The officer has been given a written warning, according to the Belfast Telegraph, a move that is understood to have provoked dismay among other serving officers.

The constable was one of two PSNI officers who faced action in 2021 following the arrest of Mark Sykes.

He was detained during a service marking the anniversary of the 1992 Sean Graham bookmakers attack, in which his brother-in-law, Peter Magee (18), was one of five people killed when a UDA gang burst into the bookmakers in 1992 and opened fire.

Officers challenged those attending the event on the grounds of suspicion they were violating coronavirus regulations.

Mr Sykes was later released unconditionally, but the incident provoked public anger, particularly among the nationalist community.

Despite being told by a senior officer that they had done nothing wrong, the two constables were publicly criticised by their bosses, with one being suspended and the other repositioned.

Then PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne publicly apologised for their actions, which he said were “not reflective of the values of the PSNI”.

But last year a High Court judge found that the actions taken against the two officers were unlawful.

Mr Byrne initially said he accepted the judgment, but later indicated he was considering launching an appeal.

Simon Byrne was PSNI chief constable when the data breach took place (Liam McBurney/PA)
Simon Byrne stepped down as PSNI chief constable last year. PICTURE: LIAM MCBURNEY/PA

That issue, in combination with a major data leak that saw the publication of information pertaining to all PSNI officers and staff, plagued the final days of Mr Byrne’s time in the role before he resigned in September.

Jon Boutcher, who took over the PSNI chief constable role, later said he would not appeal against the High Court ruling.

He said he accepted the judgment and offered to meet the officers to apologise.

However, it has now emerged that the disciplinary process against the two officers was re-run, resulting in one of the constables receiving a written warning.

The PSNI told the Belfast Telegraph: “As this is the subject of ongoing misconduct proceedings we will not be making any comment at this time”.