PSNI response to threat of rape of journalist’s baby criticized by Ombudsman
The Northern Police watchdog criticized the PSNI for its response to a reporter who reported a threat to rape his newborn son.
Patricia Devlin, who works for the Sunday World, complained to the police mediator that the police did not take the threat seriously.
The message sent to his personal Facebook account in October 2019 was signed by Combat 18, a neo-Nazi group that had previously had ties to loyalist paramilitaries.
The alleged sender is a convicted felon, with ties to loyalist paramilitaries and far-right groups, who was allegedly involved in violent attacks in the north, according to Ms Devlin.
The police ombudsman said a review of the police investigation “revealed that evidentiary opportunities had been missed with respect to investigations which should have been carried out by the police during the investigation.”
He said the officer involved in handling the complaint had worked for the police for only six months, but had the opportunity to seek advice and guidance on the reported threat.
There was no evidence that advice or guidance was sought.
The police ombudsman also said the officer’s immediate supervisors changed during the investigation.
The alleged offender was resident in Scotland at the time of the police investigation.
“Terrible abuse on social networks”
KRW, lawyers for Ms Devlin, said their client had suffered “terrible social media abuse, including well-publicized threats directed at her young child.”
“In good faith, she engaged with the PSNI in an attempt to investigate and prosecute the perpetrator,” the company said in a statement.
“There was significant evidence to identify and locate him. However, the perpetrator was not fully investigated. “
Ms Devlin was dismissed by police for lacking “evidentiary opportunities and for failing to issue out-of-court arrest warrants,” he said.
These failings were “compounded by the absence of any senior PSNI official to oversee this serious investigation and the complaint that followed,” the company said.
Kevin Winters, lawyer at KRW, asked why “such selective incompetence was allowed to help the suspect escape prosecution”.
“It is both deeply disturbing that a well-known journalist is being treated in this way by the PSNI and, unfortunately, on a broader level, it undermines confidence in the police in Northern Ireland,” he said. declared.
“We look forward to the PSNI Professional Standards Department implementing the [Police Ombudsman] recommendations on the steps that must now be taken to prevent similar events from recurring.
Ms Devlin was supported in her complaint by the National Union of Journalists and Amnesty International.
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s director for the North, said the threats against Ms Devlin were “utterly heinous and part of a wider climate of intimidation of journalists in Northern Ireland”.
“It is the media’s responsibility to shed light on the dark corners of our society,” he said.
“It is the responsibility of the police to defend their right to do so and to ensure that there is no impunity for those who threaten press freedom. The failure of the PSNI to properly investigate this matter is totally unacceptable.
“We hope that the result of the [Police Ombudsman] The investigation will focus minds within the PSNI to respond to new threats against journalists in Northern Ireland.
A PSNI spokesperson said: “A complaint has been lodged with the Office of the Police Ombudsman, the case has been confirmed and the case has been dealt with under performance measures.”