LATE night policing in Omagh is in the dock again as another case has been thrown out of court due to CCTV evidence and questionable evidence from PSNI officers.
A complaint has been made to the Police Ombudsman after public order charges against local couple Devin and Tracey O’Reilly were dismissed at the Magistrates Court this week.
It is the fourth time police actions in Omagh have come under scrutiny in just over 12 months.
Solicitor Michael Fahy, who represented the couple, said cases in the town of this type are “becoming endemic and are leading to an increasing negative attitude and mistrust among young people towards police officers.”
He told the Ulster Herald, “Having heard all the evidence presented it was another example of poor policing being evidenced in Omagh. It is now the fourth case to come before the courts in which evidence given by police at Omagh Magistrates Court has been deemed unreliable and at worst to be untrue. Concern is being echoed by the courts and lawyers in general at what appears to be a lack of control over officers who deal with public order matters in the Omagh area. Proceedings have been issued against the Chief Constable in these cases in respect of serving police officers.”
Mr Fahy said Mr and Mrs O’Reilly were “very pleased with the outcome” as the case has been hanging over them for some considerable time. He also suggested there may have been “miscarriages of justice” in similar cases before many CCTV cameras were installed in the town.
He added, “Perhaps the reason this is coming to the fore now is the increasing availability of CCTV evidence which has created doubt in evidence given by police witnesses in the criminal court. One could therefore say there is little doubt there many have been miscarriages of justice at a time when CCTV evidence was not the norm.”
Mr Fahy also pointed to Judge Kelly’s closing remarks in her judgement when she questioned a case coming to court involving “two police officers in uniform, representatives of the Public Prosecution Service, barristers and solicitors.”
Suggesting the police officers could have dealt with the situation “in a different way,” Judge Kelly concluded, “We ask ourselves in this age of austerity, what price justice?”
Cllr Errol Thompson, chair of Omagh Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP), expressed concern at how the recent cases have impacted on the reputation of the police locally.
He said he expected the issue would be raised last night (Wednesday) at a “private meeting” of the PCSP which is attended by representatives of the PSNI.
Cllr Thompson said, “I have always been a supporter of law and order and if police are doing something wrong they need to be held to account. I don’t know the individual incidents but I am sure it will be raised at the meeting and there is a complaints procedure available.
“It is a big concern if police are not doing their job properly and I would be concerned if they are coming out of this in a bad light.”