Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill poses for selfies with people at Bobby Storey funeral

A report into how police handled the funeral of IRA chief Bobby Storey has found no bias.

A review was launched after it was announced that no one who attended the funeral, including 24 members of Sinn Fein, would not be prosecuted.

It was conducted by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).

About 2,000 people attended Mr Storey’s funeral in west Belfast last June at a time when rules placed strict limits on funeral numbers and public gatherings.

The report levelled no major criticisms at the PSNI.

It found there was “nothing to suggest that there was any bias towards one community or another in the way the PSNI dealt with this funeral.

“We have seen nothing to suggest a funeral of a leading figure in the loyalist community wouldn’t have been approached in the same way.”

It added: “There are grounds for criticising the PSNI approach before, during and after the funeral.

“But we should emphasise that these are not especially serious failings: in any other part of the UK, they would pass without sparking public controversy.

“They do not approach the level at which censure of individual officers, or resignations, would be justified.”

“The regulations at the time of the funeral were both confusing and controversial.

“That alone posed an arguably insurmountable problem for the PSNI.”

In March, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said it could not recommend prosecutions due to a lack of clarity around the regulations and because of prior engagement between Sinn Féin and the PSNI during funeral planning.

The HMIC report backed the PPS over this decision.

“We find the PPS arguments wholly persuasive,” it said.

“We have taken our own, independent legal advice, and have reached the same conclusion: we are not confident that any of the funeral attendees could be shown to have committed an offence under the regulations.”

Following the publication of the HMICFRS Report, PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne said: “The global pandemic has presented insurmountable challenges for policing everywhere.

“In the context of new and rapidly changing legislation, we have always sought, with the best of intentions, to support our colleagues working in the health sector to protect the community by preventing the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

“We welcome the findings of today’s HMICFRS Inspection report, both in terms of the assurance it provides to the public, and the learning it identifies for the Police Service.

“We are committed to impartiality and are pleased that the report concludes that there was no bias in our handling of the funeral, and that the same approach would have been taken if the funeral was held within a different community.

“Furthermore, the HMICFRS report supports the principle of early engagement recommending that this practice continues.

“We are listening and are determined to work with the entire community to enhance confidence in policing as an impartial and even-handed service working hard to protect our citizens.

“There has been a high level of public interest in this matter.

“Today, we look to the way forward and to working within our oversight and accountability structures to enhance public trust in the Police Service.

“HMICFRS have made number of recommendations, which will form part of the broader learning we have taken from policing the pandemic over the last 14 months.” 

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