Sinn Féin to take no action over Gerry Kelly clamp controversy

SINN Féin has confirmed no action will be taken by the party against Gerry Kelly for cutting a clamp from his car.

The party’s policing and justice spokesman was questioned voluntarily by the PSNI over a report of criminal damage after he was filmed on Friday using bolt cutters to remove the clamp in central Belfast.

Mr Kelly revealed yesterday he had agreed to pay a fine of £150 to the clamping company and £50 for damage to the device.

The North Belfast MLA said he regrets removing the clamp and would not do it again, adding that the matter “has now been resolved”.

A spokesman for private clamping firm Parking Enforcement Agency (PEA) said it also considered the matter resolved.

However, police last night said their inquiries are “ongoing” and a report “will be submitted to the Public Prosecution Service for their consideration in due course”.

With one bound Gerry was free! Social media seethes, torn between straight laced disapproval and admiration for Braveheart with bolt cutters. Ian Knox

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said on Sunday it was a “significant test for the Sinn Féin leadership”, while UUP MLA Roy Beggs said Mr Kelly should “do the decent thing and resign”.

Last month Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff resigned after uploading a video on social media of him balancing Kingsmill bread on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmill atrocity.

Mr McElduff, who was initially suspended by his party, said he had not realised the connection but victims’ relatives rejected his apology.

Asked whether the party would taking any action against Mr Kelly, a Sinn Féin spokesman said: “Gerry Kelly has said he regretted his action.

The area behind The Mac in Belfast where Mr Kelly’s car was clamped

“He contacted the company and paid a fine and costs for the chain.

“Sinn Féin’s view is that the issue is now resolved.”

While removing a private clamp may not be illegal, a person can be held criminally responsible for causing damage to it.

Mr Kelly’s car was parked over yellow crossed lines at Exchange Street at the rear of the Metropolitan Arts Centre (Mac) near St Anne’s Cathedral.

Signs warn that restrictions are enforced by PEA, which is employed by the Mac.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme, Mr Kelly said he had been attending a nearby gym and returned to his car just after 8am to discover it had been clamped.

The former Policing Board member said he tried to contact PEA but had been unable to speak to anyone.

Mr Kelly said he had been due to attend political talks at Stormont and decided “almost on the spur of the moment” to remove the clamp.

“I was under some pressure to get up and I remembered that there were bolt cutters in Pure Gym, which is the gym I go to, and I went in and asked for a lend of them,” he said.

“They usually use them for the lockers if the locks are left on lockers. I then came out and as you can see I removed the chain.

“The matter has been resolved between myself and the company PEA as I have paid a fine and paid for the damage to the chain.”

He added: “I suppose almost on the spur of the moment I was under pressure to get up to the talks.

“My first thoughts were that I thought it was unreasonable to be clamped and I made that decision, but yes regret making the decision.”

Pure Gym declined to comment on the use of its bolt cutters.

However, Mr Kelly said the gym and its staff “didn’t know any of this was happening”.

“This is early in the morning, there’s not many staff on. I am a regular, so when I went in I asked for a lend of the bolt cutters, they assumed it was because I had forgot the combination of my lock because that’s what they’re normally used for,” he said.

“I simply said, ‘No, I have a small problem with the car.’ I didn’t explain to them.

“They knew me as a regular. They knew I would bring the bolt cutters back. They didn’t think that I was going to use them for what I used them for.”

Mr Kelly added: “I did what I did, I regret doing it, and I haven’t done it before.

“This is the first time I’ve done it. I won’t be doing it again.”

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