A public meeting in Derry last week heard of several serious allegations of the misuse of stop and search powers against people with ‘dissident’ views, their children and wider family circles.
Human rights activists and Derry solicitor Paddy McGurk addressed members of the public who have been victims of police harassment through use of controversial stop and search powers under sections 21 and 24 of the Justice and Security Act 2007 at a special meeting organised by Creggan Women’s Group.
The meeting was chaired by veteran republican and former Sinn Féin councillor Hugh Brady who said that in a single quarter 2,400 people were stopped and searched by the PSNI in Derry and nothing was recovered -- while in the same period the powers were used just once in loyalist Larne and led to a drugs arrest.
Local mother Kelly Ramsey said the stop and search incidents were “getting out of hand”, referring to several instances of PSNI harassment towards her family. She said that on one occasion she was “nearly rammed off the road” by a PSNI Tactical Support Group while eight months pregnant, that a PSNI man threatened to urinate on her floor during a house search and that a group of PSNI members also spat on her floor. She added that her 15 year-old son was stopped by the PSNI “simply because of who his father is”.
Her husband Stephen Ramsey told the meeting that he was stopped seven times in just four days and asked to identify himself by the same PSNI gang.
In a joint statement SDLP Councillors Jim Clifford and Anne Donnelly, the only political representatives to attend the Derry event, said the “harassment of people going about their daily business, and women and children in Derry is not acceptable.”
‘NO PSNI HERE’
Growing frustration in the nationalist community at PSNI’s heavy-handed approach has expressed itself in protests at events designed to make the force acceptable to the nationalist community.
Questions are also being raised over the GAA’s involvement with the PSNI. A GAA-organised event in County Tyrone was cancelled earlier this week after members of the host club objected to the involvement of the PSNI. Derrytresk Gaelic club confirmed that so many people were opposed to the PSNI’s attendance at Monday’s road safety event that they were forced to cancel it.