An 11-year-old girl caught scribbling her name on a section of Derry’s walls was subjected to a terrifying ordeal by the PSNI police.
The terrified schoolgirl, detained along with two friends by three carloads of heavily-armed PSNI officers, was later forced to go through a harrowing ordeal which included being forced to stand for a mug shot, having her finger and hand prints taken and being swabbed for DNA.
The Human Rights Commisison has expressed concern about the incident.
The child’s father Patrick Millar, from the nationalist Creggan area of Derry, said he was stunned at the treatment his daughter received at the hands of the PSNI.
“It is a shock to me that they can take a child away from her prams and dolls and terrorise it in such a way. The policeman said: ‘I don’t think she’ll be back here because we scared the life out of her.’ He’s right. They did scare the life out of her. They terrorised her and her mother. If someone was arrested for murder they would be treated exactly the same way my daughter was.
“I’m not making excuses for my daughter. What she did was wrong. She simply wrote her name on a wall that was already covered in graffiti. There was nothing political in what she wrote. We took her down to the police station for what we thought would be a slap on the wrists and then she was put through this ordeal. I haven’t been able to sleep right since it – and neither has she. She’s bottling it up and this has affected her.”
Mr Millar says he will be contacting the Police Ombudsman and has challenged Hugh Orde to explain the treatment his child received: “I want to find out from the chief constable if this is our new police force. It hasn’t changed in the last 30 years.
“This is a police force that wants my daughter to join them in 15 years’ time. But my daughter won’t be joining the police. She won’t be going out to terrorise ten and 11-year-olds in the same way she has been terrorised.”
Chief executive of the Human Rights Commisison, Paddy Sloan, said: “We are obviously concerned about the alleged circumstances involving the young 11-year-old child and we will be liasing with other relevant bodies about the matter.”
Derry-based lawyer Paddy McDermott, who is representing the Millar family, says he will contact the Police Ombudsman and the children’s commission later this week.
“I have never come across such a response to a young person in relation to such a trivial matter,” said the lawyer.
Sinn Féin Councillor Billy Page has said that treatment meted out to the girl was unbelievable.
“This is the type of treatment one would expect for someone charged with a serious crime such as murder or robbery not on a child for writing her name on a wall.
“I believe that this action may have been prompted by the fact that one of the children wrote her name in Irish”.
“While the problem of graffiti needs to be addressed this heavy handed approach to a child exposes the fact that the new beginning to policing has not been achieved.
“This young girl has been completely traumatised by her ordeal as has her family over an issue that could have been handled in a more sensitive manner given the fact that a child was involved.
“I would urge anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation never to go into a PSNI barracks without legal advice present.”