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PSNI 'brothel' crackdown hits wrong homes

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is facing a serious legal backlash after it emerged that as many as half the residences it raided as part of its cross-border anti-prostitution operation with gardai belong to innocent people.

There were no indications last week that the estimated 100 to 120 premises in the Republic raided by gardai in the joint operation last Wednesday week involved innocent people and cases of mistaken identity.

But, the PSNI is now facing a highly embarrassing and potentially very expensive legal fall-out from what appear to have been a series of botched raids based on intelligence that, in some cases, was at least a year out of date.

One of the apartments raided by the PSNI belongs to an innocent young woman journalist and her equally innocent barrister boyfriend.

The PSNI's "tactical support team" in Belfast broke down the door of their apartment and forced their way in on foot of what also appears to have been an invalid warrant.

In another case a woman was phoned at her work by a policeman who was in her home, again having smashed down her front door, saying he wished to question her about brothel keeping. The innocent woman was said to have been deeply distressed. She had bought the house in a repossession sale nearly a year ago.

Gardai said privately last week that they too were concerned about the raids and the publicity that was organised around the "joint" cross-border operation. They said that despite claims about organised prostitution rings, all the young prostitutes who were subject to raids and searches in more than 100 locations in the Republic were working independently. Only eight people, seven young women and a man in his forties, were arrested. They were released without charge.

Gardai are examining a large amount of mobile phones, laptop computers, cash and bank accounts.

Sunday Independent