Three to be prosecuted over Michaela McAreavey video, PPS announces

Mrs McAreavey, who had married her husband John 10 days earlier, was attacked after she returned to her room alone and disturbed a burglary.

Three people are to be prosecuted in connection with the singing of a song which contained offensive lyrics about the murder of Michaela McAreavey, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) in Northern Ireland has announced.

Seven individuals were reported to the PPS for consideration after a police investigation into footage of singing at an event hosted in a venue in Dundonald, County Down, in May 2022, which was streamed live on social media.

In the clip, filmed in an Orange Hall, several men are seen singing a song about the death of Mrs McAreavey.

The 27-year-old teacher was strangled in her room at the Legends Hotel in Mauritius on January 10 2011.

Mrs McAreavey, who had married her husband John 10 days earlier, was attacked after she returned to her room alone and disturbed a burglary.

No-one has been convicted of murdering the daughter of Gaelic football manager Mickey Harte.

The video was widely condemned across the political sphere in Northern Ireland and beyond.

The PPS said that after careful consideration of all the evidence and information reported by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), a decision has been taken to prosecute three individuals for the offence of "stirring up hatred" contrary to Article 9 of the Public Order (NI) Order 1987.

Summonses will now be issued to them to appear at a magistrates' court on a date yet to be fixed.

The three were investigated and reported by police as being amongst those who were captured in the footage engaging in the singing of the song which referenced the murder of Mrs McAreavey.

Decisions were taken not to prosecute the other four after it was concluded the available evidence was insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction for any offence.

Senior public prosecutor John O'Neill said: "The test for prosecution was applied carefully and impartially to the evidence reported in relation to each of the seven suspects investigated by police.

"After a thorough consideration of all evidence it was concluded that there is a reasonable prospect of conviction in relation to three of those reported.

"Accordingly, proceedings will soon be commenced."

Mr O'Neill said the PPS had informed all relevant parties of the decisions today, including the McAreavey and Harte families.

He added: "The footage captures lyrics which are a deeply offensive portrayal of a tragic and distressing event.

"I have informed the McAreavey and Harte families of the outcome of the PPS consideration of those reported and, where there was a decision not to prosecute, provided detailed written reasons.

"I have assured Michaela's loved ones that a decision not to prosecute some of the reported suspects does not excuse poor or offensive behaviour on their part.

"Rather, it simply means that the evidence did not provide a reasonable prospect of convicting them of a criminal offence."

A decision was taken not to prosecute one individual based on insufficient evidence to prove identity.

Decisions were taken not to prosecute two people who were reported by police as having aided or abetted those singing by clapping along and laughing, as prosecutors concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that these individuals intended to encourage or assist those engaged in the singing to commit an offence.

The final person was considered for a potential offence of "improper use of a public communications network" but the PPS said there was insufficient evidence to prove to the criminal standard that this individual was aware of the content of the song at the time of broadcast.

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