Case of teenager 'framed' for assault on football pitch sent to Ombudsman

Madden & Finucane lodge complaint with Police Ombudsman after PSNI fail to investigate fabricated evidence.

A solicitor for a teenager allegedly framed on a charge of grievous bodily harm has referred the case to the Police Ombudsman’s office.

Patrick Madden, acting for 19-year-old Ryan Willis, said yesterday that he has lodged a complaint with the watchdog.

Michael Willis, whose son Ryan spent almost two years on bail before the case against him collapsed, said it was clear “it should be fully investigated and somebody brought to book”.

“We are not prepared to let this go, because of everything that the Willis family have been through,” said Michael.

If he had been convicted, Ryan, an apprentice engineer from south Belfast, had faced the prospect of jail, having been accused of inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent during a football match in October 2016.

He was just 16 when he was playing centre forward for Hillsborough Boys against a team from Ballyclare Colts.

During the match, a Ballyclare player suffered a cut lip when he was given a “karate kick” to the head.

In his initial email to Lisburn Junior Invitational League, the referee named a particular player as the culprit but in a later version of the email, Ryan was named as the main aggressor, and then charged with grievous bodily harm with intent, an offence which even at youth court, carries a maximum 14 years.

Dismissing the charge at Lisburn Youth Court last month, Deputy District Judge Chris Holmes declared he was “speechless with rage” after the referee’s report was changed to “frame” the teenager, adding: “Someone or some people should be brought significantly to book for this.”

The judge told the court there “appears to be a significant amount of evidence to suggest that happened as a result of the actions of one, or probably a group of official people within the relevant organisation”.

“A youth football organisation who appear, at first glance, to have taken the view that the real perpetrator, who is known to them being connected to somebody in some form of authority, they sat down and they deliberately framed young Ryan for GBH, which is appalling.”

Judge Holmes adjourned the case to January 2 and asked for the officer in charge to attend court to provide an update.

But at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, he revealed that “I have made a number of attempts to get some clarification as to the position of this investigation, all to no avail.”

He told the court it was his view that “questioning and study of computer records would lead to the identity or identities of the person or persons responsible for the fabricated evidence” as well as the actual assailant.

The case ran as a part-heard contest last June when, as the judge said, “it quickly became clear that something was very badly amiss”.

“Since then the PPS, at my direction, have conducted their own investigation and determined that the evidence against Ryan was concocted and have subsequently applied for the matter to be dismissed.”

Judge Holmes said he was not going to “prolong the case any further” as that would extend the inconvenience to the two victims, Ryan Willis and the boy who was actually assaulted.

He continued: “I cannot state strongly enough that it would be a gross miscarriage of justice if this matter is not properly and vigorously investigated and the guilty parties brought before the court.”

Despite two potential offences being committed – the assault itself and the alleged attempt to pervert the course of justice – the PSNI said there are no live investigations.

A spokesperson said: “While the police investigation is not active at this time, if fresh evidence comes to light any new leads will be thoroughly investigated.”

Mr Madden said: “We are now considering legal proceedings in order to compensate our client.

“It is a deliberate failure by police to investigate the matter as directed by the judge,” he added.

Belfast Telegraph