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Irish Police to refund BLM protest fines

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is prepared to reimburse fines issued during two Black Lives Matter marches.

The fines are related to protests in Belfast and Londonderry on June 6, 2020.

The PSNI said it would urge the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service to delete any outstanding warrants and reimburse the fines.

Mark Hamilton, the Deputy Chief Constable, said he had written to Health Minister Robin Swann about the matter.

The request is thought to be in relation to 72 "COV1" (£60) penalty notices issued on June 6, 2020 in Custom House Square in Belfast and Guildhall Square in Derry.

In June of this year, it was revealed that 14 people who had been reported to Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service (PPS) following the June 2020 Black Lives Matter protests will not be prosecuted.

For possible violations of Covid-19 restrictions, they were reported to the PPS.

The Public Prosecution Service had stated that "no reasonable likelihood of conviction for any offence" existed.

The Police Ombudsman found merit in charges that the PSNI handled the Black Lives Matter protests in an unjust and discriminatory manner last year.

A new race discrimination allegation is being investigated.

DCC Hamilton said in a statement on Tuesday that he had written to the health minister "to inform him of our intention to request the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service to refund paid fines and cancel any outstanding warrants issued at two Black Lives Matter events in Londonderry/Derry and Belfast on June 6, 2020."

He went on to say that the decision was made "in light of recent findings by the Northern Ireland Policing Board, the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, and most recently the judgements of the Public Prosecutions Service."

"Amid an unprecedented health catastrophe and fast changing regulations, our goal has always been to assist slow the virus's spread and keep people safe," he said.

"It has not been easy or comfortable to strike a balance between this and our commitment to protect other important rights, such as the freedom to peaceful protest.”

"We've already admitted that, as a service, we don't always strike the proper balance.”

"We feel we made a mistake in our use of penalty notices at these two events, and we are correcting that issue."

"We are keen to repair relationships and establish confidence and trust in policing among all communities in Northern Ireland," Mr Hamilton said, adding that the PSNI was "working to implement the lessons acquired from this period."


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