Larne’s Clyde Valley Flute Band has stated it will consider making a complaint to the Police Ombudsman’s office following what it has described as the “unlawful detention” of its members.
The band, also known as ‘The Gun Runners’, has issued a statement through a solicitor, concerning events after the Apprentice Boys parade in Londonderry on Saturday.
A bus, in which band members, who had been wearing a Parachute Regiment motif on their shirt sleeves, was returning to Larne when it was stopped by PSNI officers on the Limavady Road.
‘Soldier F’ is the only former member of the regiment to face prosecution over the Bloody Sunday shootings in Londonderry.
Reavey Solicitors, acting on behalf of Clyde Valley Flute Band, said: “The display of a Parachute Regiment insignia and expression of support for Soldier F on the sleeve of the band’s uniforms, which is only visible at conversation distance, appears to have caused some controversy.
“The officers of the band wish to correct any false impression which may be held regarding the band’s uniform being deliberately provocative and specifically designed for the parade in Londonderry. The uniform in question has been worn on many previous occasion without incident or controversy.
“The Gun Runners believe that their expression of support for Soldier F is a legitimately held view which they are entitled to hold. The officers of the band now invite the police to give real and practical effect to their right to freedom of expression during the course of any investigation.
“‘The Gun Runners’ believe that their detention by police was unlawful. A PSNI officer confirmed with a solicitor of this office that no statement of complaint relating to the conduct of the band had been received by police at the time of their detention.
“We are of the view that no offence has been committed by the band or any member of it, nor could the police have formed any reasonable suspicion that an offence had been committed.
“Not withstanding the above, ‘The Gun Runners’ will co-operate fully with the police in relation to ths matter. However, consideration will now be given to making a complaint to the Police Ombudsman in relation to the conduct of the police officers involved in the unlawful detention of their members.”
Commenting on the policing operation, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: “Anyone in Northern Ireland, including those of us who have responsibility for policing it, understand that in our society space, history and symbols often remain contested. This can result in many difficult policing decisions. That was the situation we found ourselves in on Saturday in Derry/Londonderry.
“The vast majority of the people who arrived in Derry/Londonderry at the weekend to participate in the parade did so within the law and with due regard to that context.
“One band, in our view, chose not to have a sensitivity towards that context to the point where we believed it would have interfered with our legitimate purpose of keeping the peace and keeping people safe, and on that basis we engaged and sought their co-operation to resolve that in a constructive way.
“We sought to engage the involvement of the organisers and their marshals to assist us in that and they were unable to do so.
“With a large number of people delayed for a significant amount of time, where some people were parading on the cityside and other people were waiting on the Waterside area of the city, instead of persisting in that delay with the risks that entailed, we chose to make other operational arrangements to help ensure that people were kept safe and prevent a breach of the peace or a likely breach of the peace for the remainder of the parade.
“Once the parade was finished we took steps to seek to identify those within the band so that we could fulfil our duty to put the matters and facts before the Public Prosecution Service in order that they might determine if there was any liability on the part of those people responsible. That is a legitimate policing purpose and was done so professionally. Once those details and assurances were given to us, those people were free to travel on their way.
“As a policing service, we have a professional responsibility, and a legitimate purpose, to maintain the peace and keep people safe. These were the objectives of our decision making on Saturday. The event passed off peacefully, people were kept safe, no- one was hurt and nobody was unduly inconvenienced by police actions.”