Gatwick drone incident update: Wrongly arrested couple says police are covering up failure

Police flying drone Gatwick

The infamous drone sightings that caused the UK’s Gatwick Airport to close for almost two days in 2018 have dominated news broadcasts and counter-drone industry discussions for what seems like eons. But to date, no culprit has been found. And so, the couple that was wrongly accused of the chaos is now calling out the police for failure to publish a report on the incident.

The airport shutdown led to the cancellation of more than 1,000 flights, affecting some 140,000 passengers waiting to commence their Christmas holidays. Two days after the incident, 12 armed police officers stormed a house located only a few miles from the airport and arrested married couple Paul Gait and Elaine Kirk on suspicion of “criminal use of drones.”

The couple then sued the Sussex Police for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment and won almost $253,000 in damages and legal fees.

At the time, an independent review commissioned by the Sussex Police revealed there were 96 people of interest, all of whom were ruled out in the investigation.

However, the report of this review was never made public, even though a news agency submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the same. On the contrary, the police invoked Section 22 of the FOI Act that exempts information held with a view to future publication.

‘Opportunity lost’ in Gatwick drone incident

Now, BBC is reporting that the Gaits have issued a joint statement on the matter, saying:

This appears to us, not about lessons learned and preventing harm in the future, but about protecting the reputation of the Sussex Police force from scrutiny and criticism of our pain, and the unlawfulness and injustice that occurred to us. This most recent failure to deal with us fairly and openly is an opportunity lost in giving us some measure of the truth and reconciliation we are owed.

A spokesman for the Sussex Police, meanwhile, has retorted with this:

The report contained sensitive details that relate to operational policing and national security. We shared our learning with partners in policing and the aviation industry nationally and around the world at the time, with public safety the priority.

What do you think? Are the police embarrassed about what the Gatwick drone incident report contains, or could there actually be details that should not be published due to national security? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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