Slugger O'Toole

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Policing Board member Gerry Kelly sues Board’s own ‘employee’ the Chief Constable of the PSNI

Tue 25 February 2014, 10:10am

Given the currency of the debate on reform of the Garda oversight system in the Republic, and Sinn Fein’s settled view that an NI style policing board system – ie, where power is distributed between a basket of political parties – is preferable to direct control by the minister it’s a little odd that their most senior representative on the PBNI has, as the Belfast Telegraph reports:

“…taken a civil case against the PSNI chief constable (Matt Baggott) over the incident in Carrick Hill last year. Gerry Kelly, in common with any other citizen, is entitled to access the courts when he believes he has been wronged.”

In fact, the Chief Constable Matt Baggott is already directly accountable to the Policing Board of which Gerry is a senior and influential member. Indeed Mr Kelly’s predecessor Alex Maskey was prominent in photo calls at the appointment of the Chief Constable.

Importantly, in Northern Ireland the CC is accountable to the Policing Board, not the Justice Minister.

In southern terms this would be the equivalent of the Minster suing the Garda Commissioner. In northern terms it comes pretty close to an employer (who already has the means to make the CC accountable through their own internal mechanisms) suing an employee.

More damagingly, Kelly’s legal action trashes the notion that the policing board system is fit for purpose, thereby undermining the party’s own southern policy.

The BelTel piece doesn’t make clear the grounds on which the Sinn Fein MLA is taking the civil action on, so advice of a party colleague, I’ve asked him to respond directly through Twitter:

We’ll keep you posted…

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Comments (23)

  1. So will Gerry Kelly immediately stand down – or step aside – from the Policing Board while his court action proceeds?

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  2. megatron (profile) says:

    Surely he is suing as a citizen? Presumably as a policing board member he will seek to have changes made to prevent this thing happening again whereas as a citizen he wants compensation for harm done? I cant see the issue?

    (there is a separate issue as to whether he has a reasonable case but I am sticking to the principle of whether he has a right to take a case in my comments)

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  3. sean treacy (profile) says:

    Mick ,the PSNI may be answerable to Gerry but Gerry is not answerable to you,thank God !

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  4. Charles_Gould (profile) says:

    How noble of him.

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  5. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    It is an odd decision.

    Given Gerry Kelly had accepted an informed warning about the incident – in the process acknowledging that he was in the wrong.

    He could have refused that warning, and had his day in court instead. He chose not to.

    Of course, since then Gerry Kelly has been proclaiming that he had done nothing wrong, contrary to his acceptance of the warning. So who knows what the reasoning is.

    Megatron

    He, like any citizen, has the right to make any claim he wants to. The courts will decide on the merits of that claim.

    Whether he is wise to do so in the circumstances is another matter entirely.

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  6. cynic2 (profile) says:

    Can Baggott refuse to recognize the court?

    But more seriously I think that Gerry has a point. For example PIRAs entire campaign was a conspiracy to murder and commit various acts of terrorism . Recently we have seen yet more revelations that some key SF personnel were commanding or playing leading roles in PIRA Northern Command at the time of various crimes.

    Can all those whose loved ones were killed or who suffered injuries sue the PIRA / SF leadership for this?

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  7. streetlegal (profile) says:

    Mr Kelly has been advised by a no win no fee lawyer – wrongly in my opinion – that he is in a position obtain substantial damages from the PSNI. It seems patently obvious – given his acceptance of his own misconduct when he accepted a formal caution – that he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

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  8. Barnshee (profile) says:

    !

    Not just climbing on a wagon also climbing on a bandwagon

    Start claim — public sector body thinks bad publicity and or big legal bill-body throws bone (2/3 grand) for pest to go away -prevents big legal bill- (Used to be common in public sector until a few managers refused to play ball and insisted case proceeded.)

    What is needed now is for the cop in the van to institute proceedings against Gerry for putting his safety at risk (see the SF video of wagon being attacked) – Also include PSNI for contributory negligence

    Money for old rope + early retirement +compensation for constructive dismissal AND big bucks for the legal profession–whats` not to like

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  9. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    megatron
    “Surely he is suing as a citizen?”
    Though he is suing as a citizen as is his right, you would think as Alan in Belfast is suggesting there must be a clear conflict of interest.

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  10. Son of Strongbow (profile) says:

    Time for the Police Federation to step up to the plate and support the police driver in counter-suing Kelly for the alarm and distress caused by Kelly walking into the path of the moving vehicle he was driving.

    In addition as a PB member Kelly is also the police driver’s ‘employer’. An action under employment law should be considered given the said employer’s contribution to adversely effecting the officer’s health and safety.

    Btw is Kelly on record as having provided a witness statement concerning those who launched the attack on the police vehicle that occurred after he had forced the police vehicle to stop? How is that investigation going?

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  11. cynic2 (profile) says:

    Speaking of stepping up to the base ….who in PSNI has fallen on their sword after this mess

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26342465

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  12. Does the man playing rule apply to politicians?

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  13. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Mick,

    I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick here. If you’re taking a common law claim for damages against the PSNI you have to sue the Chief Constable by name. Kelly isn’t singling out the Chief Constable just to make a point; he is following exactly the same procedure that you or I would do if we were claiming against the police for ill treatment or whatever.

    I agree with SoS, the officer involved should make a counter claim. This isn’t unknown; officers quite often put in claims when they are injured during the course of their work.

    The Police Board is the employer, Police Board members are not, so the suggestions of going after Kelly on those grounds are silly. That’s not to say I don’t regard Kelly’s decision to sue here as being highly irresponsible.

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  14. notimetoshine (profile) says:

    What a bloody joke!

    Seriously someone needs to give Kelly a good shake and tell him to leave well alone.

    The farce of Kelly trying to wash the windows of that landrover was bad enough but obviously he hasn’t gained enough political capital out of the incident so what better way to keep it in the public eye than through the courts.

    I feel so sorry for the police officer involved, Kelly and his cohorts can mouth off all they want and the poor guy just has to sit there and take it.

    Can we get rid of this cretin?

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  15. I have a feeling that I’m probably going to get the answer to my question shortly.

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  16. Red Lion (profile) says:

    Election time is coming up.

    Gerry Kelly is electioneering no more no less.

    He plays to the republican tribal gallery “”look at me I’m the IRA hardman who physically takes on the crown police force””

    and when his case gets chucked out of court he gets to wail ‘British injustice and discrimination against a poor wee republican citizen like me’ thereby trying to play on centuries-old hostility.

    It’s a pantomime, an illusion that tries to deflect Sinn Fein’s core support away from the fact that a UI by 2016 is a load of balls. It is also tribal politics and represents the steady Sinn Fein policies of not allowing the NI they part-govern to become too settled and prosperous.

    Increasingly desperate tactics. Not as desperate as the DUP, and of course a lot more smarter and under-the-radar than eg DUP flag protests. But shows an utter lack of genuine vision from SF, and increasingly desperate nonetheless.

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  17. aquifer (profile) says:

    Maybe the driver thought the whining was the gearbox.

    Everybody makes mistakes.

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  18. Flairbatov (profile) says:

    There’s been a few comments above to the effect that GK will be automatically barred from bringing a civil action against the Chief Constable because of his acceptance of a formal caution. This isn’t necessarily so as he may receive an award of damages that is reduced for contributory negligence to reflect his own misconduct. It is also possible that it may be determined that he was not guilty of any misconduct in the circumstances.

    Whether this is a wise move or not is another matter. I do, however, raise an eyebrow everytime I see someone trying to portray the driving of an armoured vehicle into an individual as a reasonable response to obstruction, if that is how GK’s conduct should be categorised.

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  19. Dixie Elliott (profile) says:

    Kelly is suing because the driver of the land rover hurt his feelings by not knowing who he was…

    He was shown up in front of those he sees as underlings and that had to hurt like hell…

    https://www.facebook.com/BELFASTLAD/photos/a.167845846753708.1073741828.167750270096599/221146454756980/?type=1&theater

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  20. ThomasPaine (profile) says:

    Red Lion has posted exactly what I wanted to. Agree with every word. Spot on.

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  21. Dixie Elliott (profile) says:

    No the real electioneering usually begins with the Adamsites screaming about death threats, broken windows, damaged cars and other such dastardly dissident doings…

    Then of course when arses are safely sat on seats and the elections are yesterdays news we hear no more of the above happening…

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  22. Charles_Gould (profile) says:

    Mark Durkan made a very powerful comment in Westminster today – we did not end the dirty war just to have dirty deals.

    This is a very shameful day and if it falls to the SDLP to point it out – so be it.

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  23. Neil (profile) says:

    Wrong thread chum.

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