The Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has announced a review of a decision not to prosecute 24 Sinn Féin members for Covid-19 regulation breaches over their attendance at the funeral of senior republican Bobby Storey.
The review, which is in line with PPS procedures, comes after a number of requests to reconsider the decision, including one from a public representative on behalf of a member of the public.
The review will be carried out by a senior PPS lawyer who was not involved in the original decision-making process.
“This lawyer will be assisted by obtaining the advice of Senior Counsel who is independent of the PPS and was also not in any way involved in the original decisions,” said a PPS statement.
It is understood that the North's director of public prosecutions Stephen Herron is not considering his own position amid the controversy over the non-prosecution decisions announced on Tuesday.
The Stormont Assembly is to be recalled from Easter recess on Thursday to debate an SDLP motion of censure against Sinn Féin. And the DUP on Wednesday reiterated its call for the North’s Chief Constable, Simon Byrne, to resign.
Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann welcomed the announcement by the PPS.
Speaking in Ballymena after receiving his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine at a community pharmacy, Mr Swann said: “I think that’s the right thing to do.
“I think that’s something that has been asked for since they came out with their statement yesterday, it’s also something that we’ll be happy to engage with when they do appoint someone.
“If the PPS is still of a mind, if law in Northern Ireland is confusing, I’ll interact with them, my department will interact with them because these regulations were something that were brought forward to manage a very different time, something we’ve never experienced in Northern Ireland before, we were facing a global pandemic, these regulations were brought in to save lives and protect people and I don’t recognise the comment the PPS made in regards to the confusion that’s there.
“Some laws are very confusing in their nature, it doesn’t give anyone the excuse to not obey them and that’s why our court processes are there.
“The review that the PPS has brought forward is the right thing and a timely thing to do, and I would hope that they would expedite it as well because I think that will help the process in Northern Ireland as well.”
Mr Swann said he has concerns about comments he heard that “negotiations took place” between police and the organisers of the funeral of Bobby Storey last year.
“I don’t think Covid regulations are something that can be negotiated, I don’t think Covid is something that people can negotiate with, we have to combat it, we have to fight it, so that would raise concerns on my part and in my party but we are waiting to see the outcome of the Policing Board meeting tomorrow,” he said.