Northern Ireland news

Police officers not to be prosecuted over Mark Sykes arrest

 Troubles victim Mark Sykes being arrested on suspicion of disorderly behaviour following a heated exchange with police at an anniversary event on the Ormeau Road

Two police officers who arrested a Troubles shooting victim at a commemoration event in Belfast will not face prosecution.

Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service said it would not be taking action against the two officers involved in the incident on the Ormeau Road in February.

The officers had attended to highlight potential coronavirus breaches in relation to the size of the gathering.

The PSNI officers were considered by the PPS in relation to allegations of assault against Mark Sykes as they arrested him at the memorial event for victims of a loyalist gun massacre in 1992 at the Sean Graham bookmakers shop.

Mr Sykes, who was shot multiple times in that attack, was arrested during the commemoration.

Mr Sykes, who was detained on suspicion of disorderly behaviour and later released, admitted swearing at an officer.

The incident triggered a major controversy in Northern Ireland and saw PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne face calls for his resignation.

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne later apologised for how police handled the incident.

One of the officers was suspended and the other was moved to another role.

The disciplinary moves were heavily criticised by the Policing Federation which represents rank and file officers.

PPS Assistant Director Martin Hardy recognised the sensitivities surrounding the police response to the commemoration which is held annually to mark the murder of five people and wounding of nine others at Sean Graham’s bookmakers on the Ormeau Road on 5th February 1992.

The PSNI officers, who were not aware of the background to the gathering and came across it whilst on patrol, approached the event in light of potential breaches of the Covid-19 legislation in place at the time.

This led to an incident between civilians and police which resulted in the arrest of one member of the public. A complaint was subsequently made to PONI which resulted in two officers being investigated and reported to the PPS for decisions as to prosecution.

Mr Hardy said: “The complaint related to the actions of the officers in arresting and handcuffing one person during the incident.

“Having carefully considered the available evidence, the PPS decision was that there is insufficient evidence to prove that the actions of the officers in arresting the civilian, and applying handcuffs to him, were unlawful.

“Separate consideration was given to whether an omission to remove the handcuffs after a period of time had passed could amount to an assault by a police officer. Again, after a thorough examination of all matters, it was concluded that the Test for Prosecution is not met for any assault arising from that aspect of the complaint.”

Mr Hardy said the complainant has today received detailed reasons for the decisions not to prosecute in writing, along with an offer to meet to address any further questions.

Mr Hardy said: “We are acutely aware of the deep sensitivities attached to this case, and the distress caused to the complainant through being arrested at an event to remember an atrocity which those present were so directly and profoundly impacted by. I would like to reassure the public that these decisions were taken impartially and after a full consideration of all relevant matters.”

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