Children as young as three have been stopped and searched by the PSNI, it has been revealed.
Almost 2,300 under-16s have been stopped by the PSNI in the last 12 months -- an average of six every day and more than double the previous year’s figures.
That includes 27 who were aged nine and under. The youngest was just three years old, according to figures revealed today. The increase is part of a general crackdown against republicanism.
According to figures released under Freedom of Information, some 2,299 under-16s were stopped and searched by the PSNI during 2008/09. That is more than double the 1,066 stop and searches carried out in the previous 12 months.
Children’s Commissioner Patricia Lewsley said she intends to write to the new PSNI Matt Baggott to ensure that young people were treated appropriately.
“I recognise the potential for concern around the issue of young people being stopped and searched,” she said.
“I will be raising the matter with the Chief Constable, including the need for the PSNI to use child-friendly ways of explaining stop and search procedures to young people.”
Paul O’Connor from the Pat Finucane Centre said the PSNI was in danger of alienating a new generation of people by over-using its powers.
“This simply beggars belief. It doesn’t take a PhD to realise that you are going to alienate an entirely new generation through the rampant use of stop and search powers,” he said.
Policing Board member Martina Anderson has called upon the PSNI in Derry to review the use of the controversial ‘Section 44’ stop and search powers.
The Derry Sinn Fein representative said: “In the three months between April and June, there were 357 people stopped and searched under section 44 in the Foyle area. Only one of these people was subsequently arrested.
“The reality is that the use of Section 44 powers by the PSNI undermines attempts to demonstrate to the community that the PSNI can deliver an effective, accountable and civic policing service.
“The use of these powers is unnecessary as the PSNI have adequate powers to stop and search without having to resort to the use of so called Terrorism legislation.”
Meanwhile, the new PSNI chief, Matt Baggott, has declared that he will treat armed republican groups as “criminal gangs”.
“It’s a huge mistake, I think, to see terrorism as isolated from criminality,” Mr Baggott said.
The age of criminal responsibility under British law is ten.