Sunday 11 December 2016

PSNI 'stopped and searched some people up to three times a day'

Published 15/02/2016 | 09:39

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Some people complained of being stopped and searched by police in Northern Ireland up to two or three times a day, security powers reviewer David Seymour has said.

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Police said only 0.03pc of the population was stopped more than once.

Mr Seymour said concerns were largely confined to Derry and Strabane in the west and north Belfast.

He said: "The concern was that the powers under the Justice and Security Act were being abused, no redress was available, and the local community was being punished."

He added in general terms the allegations related to individuals being stopped and searched many times a year, sometimes two or three times a day.

Children aged under 16 were reportedly being stopped and searched, people were being stopped and searched near schools in front of children, people were being stopped and searched because of their association with dissident republicans, and people were being stopped and searched when going about their daily business, he said.

He noted claims that inappropriate remarks were made by the police during a stop and search; some houses had been repeatedly searched over a period of time; seized property, including computers and laptops, was not being returned promptly; and munitions were never found following a stop and search.

Mr Seymour said the PSNI understood the use of these powers had the potential to alienate communities and therefore make their job more difficult, and outlined the service's response.

He added: "However, they have a legal obligation to keep people safe and they focus the use of these powers, based on intelligence, on known dissident republicans who are constantly planning attacks involving the use of munitions.

"PSNI officers are trained to conduct searches in accordance with the law and the code of practice.

"It can take up to a year to analyse the contents of computers and laptops seized in the course of a search. There was no harassment of communities.

"The powers are used carefully and target those individuals who are known to be capable of causing death and injury through the use of munitions."

Press Association

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