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Two men to be charged over Cookstown disco hotel deaths

Two men are to be charged in relation to the deaths of three teenagers in a crush outside a St Patrick’s Day disco in Co Tyrone three years ago.

The pair, aged 55 and 43, are each to be charged with three counts of gross negligence manslaughter, one charge for each of the deaths.

It is believed they are linked to the hotel where the incident happened.

The three young people died when they were caught up in the tragedy at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown.

(L-R) Connor Currie, Lauren Bullock and Morgan Barnard died in the incident at the hotel

They were 17-year-old Lauren Bullock, 17-year-old Morgan Barnard and 16-year-old Connor Currie.

Prosecutors also intend to charge the two men with one offence of contravening the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978.

The company which runs the Greenvale Hotel, known as Tobin Limited, will also face one charge of contravening Health and Safety legislation.

Michael McElhatton, the owner of the Greenvale Hotel, said: “I am conscious that this is a highly sensitive time for the families and I feel that it would be inappropriate to comment at this time.”

Five police officers investigated over their response to the emergency call will not face charges.

When four of them arrived at the chaotic scene they initially withdrew to wait for back-up, a decision that caused a public outcry.

A fifth colleague who was acting as call handler on the night was also interviewed during a separate police ombudsman investigation.

James Bradley, the father of Morgan Barnard, said he welcomed the decision to instigate criminal proceedings into the events of the night his son died.

But he added that the family “does not accept” the decision not to prosecute PSNI officers.

“We have instructed our lawyers to immediately engage with the PPS in seeking a review into this decision not to prosecute.

“In light of the pending criminal process, we do not intend on saying anything further at this time,” Mr Bradley added.

At least one of the families has called for a public inquiry into the events of the night

Earlier, the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service said in a statement: “It was concluded by the PPS that the available evidence was insufficient to establish that the reported officers recognised the seriousness or the exact situation that was unfolding.

“There was difficulty in establishing exactly what they heard over the police communications and there was initial confusion as to whether the incident was a public order situation, either inside or outside the hotel.

“The approach taken by the sergeant was to immediately seek additional police resource so that his officers could safely take any necessary action,” it said.

“Police observations of the queue at the front of the hotel failed to identify any emergency and police also received assurances from inside the hotel that the situation was under control,” the PPS added.

The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Marie Anderson, expressed her sympathies to the families of the three young people.

“My investigation into the conduct of relevant police officers was extensive,” she said.

“My role as an investigator is to assess the evidence and submit files to the PPS to make a decision as to whether an officer should be prosecuted for the potential offence of Misconduct in Public Office,” she added.

“Now that the PPS has directed that no officer should be prosecuted, I will consider whether there is evidence of misconduct by any officer,” Mrs Anderson said.

“Where there are grounds to do so, I will make appropriate recommendations to the Chief Constable.”

In all, 16 people were considered for prosecution as a result of the police investigation into the circumstances of the incident and the separate ombudsman investigation into the police response.

The PPS also explained the decision not to prosecute nine other hotel staff including seven who had been working as security on the night

It said all were considered for the potential offence of contravening health and safety at work laws but the evidence did not reach the test for prosecution.

“The PPS concluded that each of these nine could have exercised very little control over the planning for and management of the events which unfolded or alternatively held a role which carried little responsibility for the safety of hotel patrons,” it said.

The PPS accepted that some of the decisions it had taken would be disappointing for the families, but said all decisions had been taken independently, based on the evidence and in consultation with senior lawyers.

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