PSNI’s hypocrisy over hate crimes exposed
PSNI’s hypocrisy over hate crimes exposed


The PSNI is facing allegations of double standards on hate crimes as they refused to answer questions about a provocative poster of a loyalist killer gloating over a murderous attack.

A banner of former UVF death squad leader Billy Wright was erected in Dungannon, County Tyrone last month. It included the quote “I would look back and say Cappagh was probably my best”, a reference to the cold-blooded murder of four Catholic men in 1991.

Anger among families of the victims was inflamed when PSNI Inspector Keith Jamieson said the poster was “perceived by some to be offensive, but not by others”. In his statement, he also said the force “must attempt to achieve a balance between the rights of one community over another”.

Speaking during the August meeting of the Policing Board this week, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin insisted that legal advice suggested the banner did not break the law.

He said there was no evidence of an escalation of hatred in the area, which would have allowed prosecution for the offence of stirring up hatred. He also insisted that the charge of ‘glorifying terrorism’ only refers to encouraging future attacks, not reflecting on historic ones.

“The advice I got, and I took it from lawyers, was there was no contravention of the law, as distasteful as that was,” he said.

Speaking during the same meeting, PSNI Chief George Hamilton said the form of the original statement by Jamieson had caused hurt and offence, but he declined to make a public apology. “Probably with hindsight we would not have used the words that were used,” he said.

The sister of one of the men men killed at Cappagh has now called on Martin to make the legal advice he received public.

Siobhan Nugent noted that the PSNI previously removed a poster mocking the death former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Enniskillen in 2013, but has not explained why it failed to apply the same standards in this case.

Her brother, Malcolm Nugent was one of three IRA Volunteers who died in the shootings at Boyle’s Bar. The others were Dwayne O’Donnell and John Quinn, who died alongside civilian Thomas Armstrong after loyalists opened fire with automatic weapons.

“We believe the decision by the PSNI is political and biased because there were three IRA volunteers among the four people killed at Cappagh,” she said.

Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice, who has worked closely with the Cappagh relatives, said their questions must be answered.

“The PSNI have adopted an approach that is inconsistent in terms of decisions. All processes concerning these issues need to be transparent. So far they have failed to do that and it looks like there are critical decisions made by police rather than applying the rule of law equally.”

SDLP Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone, who reported the Wright banner to the PSNI some weeks ago, has branded the force’s different approaches as “rank hypocrisy” and refused to take part in a private meeting with the PSNI over the matter.

“There are clearly very serious questions for the PSNI to answer about the apparent hierarchy they have created when it comes to dealing with grossly offensive displays,” he said.

“Why is it that posters they deem to be offensive relating to Margaret Thatcher are removed without delay but those which glorify sectarian murders carried out by Billy Wright are left to compound the pain of victims?”

“The vastly different approach applied to two communities is disturbing and unacceptable.”

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly also challenged the PSNI over the definition of a hate crime following separate exchanges about the burning of election posters.

“The attitude of the PSNI in relation to the burning of effigies and election posters was unfortunately summed up by ACC Steven Martin at the Policing Board’s public session who said the burning of such materials was like burning a piece of paper and therefore was not a hate crime,” he said.

“Essentially what the PSNI have done today is given a get out jail free card to those who engage in these activities.”


Meanwhile, a new banner in memory of another UVF man, Wesley Somerville, has been put up Moygashel, outside Dungannon, alongside another one glorifying the UVF.

It includes an image of two armed and masked men with the words: “Mid Ulster Brigade UVF, Moygashel. In memory of our fallen volunteers.”

Brian and Aidan Falls, whose father was killed by Somerville, said the poster was a hate crime.

“We believe the erection of the banner of mass murderer Wesley Somerville to be a hate crime, offensive and must be taken down immediately,” they said.

The PSNI has denied the new poster is illegal and that they were “not aware of a hate crime or incident reported to them in respect of this poster”.

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