Decision not to prosecute police officers 'deeply disappointing' says crush victim's father

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The father of Morgan Barnard, one of the three teenagers who died in a crush at Greenvale Hotel, has welcomed the decision to pursue prosecutions.

However, James Bradley said it was "deeply disappointing" that no police officers were to be prosecuted.

The Police Ombudsman has said she will consider the evidence to determine if there is a case of misconduct on the part of the police.

"We welcome today's decision to initiate criminal proceedings into the events of 17th March 2019 in which we lost our son, Morgan," Mr Bradley said.

"This aspect of the decision confirms what we always knew; that there is a case to answer for the manslaughter of our son. We now look forward to engaging in the trial process in the months ahead.

"It is however deeply disappointing that the PPS have taken a decision to keep those police officers involved, out of the dock.

"This is a decision we do not intend on accepting. We have instructed our lawyers to immediately engage with the PPS (Public Prosecution Service) in seeking a review into this decision not to prosecute.

James Bradley, Morgan Barnard's father, spoke to UTV in September 2021 Credit: UTV

"In light of the pending criminal process, we do not intend on saying anything further at this time," Mr Bradley added.

Darragh Mackin of Phoenix Law, solicitor for Morgan Barnard’s family welcomed the developments in the case "in what has been a prolonged campaign by our clients for truth and justice for the events at the Greenvale Hotel".

"Whilst today is a positive step in the right direction, it comes with a disappointing development, insofar as the decision not to prosecute those police officers in question. "It is difficult to square the circle of the PPS decision, with the facts of this case.

"This decision does not provide a clean bill of health for those officers’ actions at the centre of this investigation.

"For those reasons, there remain important questions unaddressed within the decision making process. "The family do not accept the rational of the PPS decision, and for those reasons, we are instructed to immediately engage with the PPS in seeking an urgent review of the decision not to prosecute.”

Whilst the family of Morgan Barnard have criticised the decision not to prosecute any police officers, the body representing frontline PSNI officers has welcomed the move.

"This has also been a difficult three years for our officers, and I am sure they are relieved that any potential criminal matters are not being progressed against any of them," said Chair of the Police Federation, Liam Kelly said. "However, that unfortunately is not the end of the matter as the officers will now have to wait on the Police Ombudsman to establish if she recommends any misconduct proceedings against any of the officers. "This process should be completed as expeditiously as possible. Officers need to have closure and we would urge the Police Ombudsman’s office to fast-track its decision so that clarity is provided and the officers can move on with their lives and careers.

"This is primarily a difficult day for the families of the three young people who tragically lost their lives and our thoughts are first and foremost with them as they recall the terrible event and remember their children," Mr Kelly added.

In response to the PPS decision, Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton added: “The Police Service of Northern Ireland acknowledges the decision taken today, Thursday 1 September by the Public Prosecution Service in respect of the deaths of Connor Currie, Lauren Bullock and Morgan Barnard following an incident at the Greenvale Hotel, Cookstown in March 2019.

“We again extend our deepest sympathies to their families on what is understandably a difficult day for them. Given the decision to commence proceedings against two individuals and a limited company, it would not be appropriate for us to comment further whilst we continue to work with the PPS to present these matters to the court.

“The Police Service of Northern Ireland referred itself to the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland in the aftermath of the incident. Following the direction not to prosecute any police officers, the misconduct investigation undertaken by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland is still live and we will await receipt of their report and any recommendations in due course.”

Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson offered her sympathies to the families, she added: “My investigation into the conduct of relevant police officers was extensive. My investigation examined the actions of five police officers in relation to the potential offence of Misconduct in Public Office. My investigators assessed a significant amount of evidence from witness statements, criminal interviews with police officers, forensics, phone call recordings and CCTV. “My role as an investigator is to assess the evidence and submit files to the PPS to make a decision as to whether an officer should be prosecuted for the potential offence of Misconduct in Public Office. “Now that the PPS has directed that no officer should be prosecuted, I will consider whether there is evidence of misconduct by any officer. "Where there are grounds to do so, I will make appropriate recommendations to the Chief Constable. “I thank the families for their ongoing patience during this process.”

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