PSNI harassment in focus after arrest of society couple
PSNI harassment in focus after arrest of society couple

The false arrest by the PSNI of a retired Dutch naval officer and his former magistrate wife in raids targeting republicans has made international headlines.

The Dutch consulate has said the country’s embassy is monitoring developments following the arrest of Peter van der Lenden and his wife last week.

The arrest and interrogation of Mr van der Lenden and with his wife, who is also a former director of the Childline children’s charity, provoked fresh criticism from local representatives. The couple are understood to be frequent guests at high society parties in the North.

Their arrest was linked to the interrogation of Mrs van der Lenden’s son Ciaran Cunningham, a spokesman for Republican Network for Unity, who was also arrested at a separate address. All three were released without charge.

Computer equipment and other personal items seized from the van der Lendens’ home have yet to be returned. Mrs van der Lenden was forced to stand down as a lay magistrate following her arrest by orders of the North’s ‘Lord Chief Justice’.

Mr Cunningham was recently arrested following a protest at justice minister David Ford’s office.

Mrs van der Lenden said that while she does not share her son’s political views, she “respects his right to pursue his political objectives using peaceful means”.

“There are two possibilities in our case,” she said.

“Either the police knowingly targeted us for malicious reasons or their intelligence is so bad that they arrested three innocent people.

“Both scenarios represent an equally appalling vista.

“My husband comes from a country where citizens’ rights are paramount and police are held accountable. He is still in shock that we could be treated in such a manner.”

Sinn Fein MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy said: “In terms of nationalist confidence in the PSNI the past number of months have been a bad period for the police.

“Nobody believes, including I would suggest the PSNI themselves, that these people were in anyway involved in criminal activity.

“If the arrests this week in south Armagh are based on intelligence and detective work then it says much about the quality of the current investigations.”

A series of tense and dramatic arrest operations have been directed by the PSNI against the Catholic/nationalist community across the North have taken place in recent weeks.

Last month, well-known businessman Declan McNally said he would vigorously pursue the PSNI over his high-profile false arrest in the town of Toomebridge.


The PSNI was also criticised this week for the arrest and interrogation of two innocent Catholic children -- a girl of 17 and a boy of 15 -- under “anti-terror” legislation.

They were seized in a heavy-handed operation in Derry last Thursday and taken to the notorious Antrim interrogation centre for questioning about dissident republican activity. Both were later released unconditionally the following day, but the raids prompted further criticism from Sinn Fein and human rights groups.

Sinn Fein Assembly member Raymond McCartney defended the PSNI’s right to carry out the investigation but added that “there has to be a better way of doing it than a team from the Serious Crime Branch coming into an area in armoured vehicles to take a 15-year-old boy out of his home.”

Maggie O’Connor, a case worker with the local human rights group, the Pat Finucane Centre, said she was “deeply concerned” at the overnight interrogations.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News