Minister welcomes ‘repentance’ over PSNI controversy

Attorney General Helen McEntee has welcomed a statement from a member of the police authority express regret at his handling of an alleged sexual assault in the workplace.

Stephen Martin, who was previously deputy chief of police for the PSNI, is still facing calls to resign from authority on the case.

Sunday, Leader of the Social Democrats Catherine Murphy told RTE she doubts whether it is tenable for Mr Martin to remain in his position. Sinn Fein en Work made similar comments.

Mr Martin was appointed to the Police Authority, overseeing the Garda, by Ms McEntee in February 2021.

The controversy concerns allegations made by civilian PSNI employee Sinead McGrotty against detective Ronan Sharkie.

Ms McGrotty told the BBC that Mr Sharkie hit her on the buttocks, grabbed her breasts and made several very abusive comments over a period of time.

The detective later admitted to touching Ms McGrotty inappropriately and was fined £250. However, there was no criminal charge. PSNI management also banned Mr Sharkie from working in the diversion where his victim was located.

Mr Martin later lifted this ban at the request of Mr Sharkie’s lawyers. He told RTÉ he was doing this on the basis of “strong legal advice”.

Ms McGrotty said he lifted the ban without consulting her or her line manager and that his actions showed little respect for victims’ rights. “It was run by the perpetrator and I, as the victim, was completely barred from the trial.”

Mr Martin also later removed a contact management plan that required that Ms McGrotty be notified when Mr Sharkie was in the same building as her.

He said he was doing this on the basis that “executing such a plan would be very difficult and could potentially affect Detective Sharkie’s ability to do his job effectively”.

“I was also not convinced that such a plan was proportionate or necessary given the passage of time,” he said in a letter to Ms McGrotty at the time, as reported by The Times.

In a statement to RTÉ, Mr Martin said he regretted not meeting Ms McGrotty on the occasions in question.

“At the time, I tried to take into account Ms. McGrotty’s needs and vulnerabilities in all my decision-making.

“However, in recent weeks I have often thought about my role in these events. One area of ​​particular reflection for me is not meeting Ms McGrotty as part of the process.

“While this was the correct PSNI process at the time, I would do it differently now and meet her. I recognize that her voice was important and not heard as part of the decision-making process and I regret that.”

On Sunday, Ms McEntee appeared to support Mr Martin’s position.

“The minister takes note of Mr Martin’s statement this week, in particular his acknowledgment that Sinead McGrotty’s voice was not heard as part of the decision-making process on her case,” a spokesman said.

“The Minister firmly believes that the victim’s voice should always be heard and welcomes Mr Martin’s statement, after reflection, that he would now approach the matter differently and meet Ms McGrotty.”

Ms McEntee’s spokesman said the minister had only recently become aware of Ms McGrotty’s case.

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