The PSNI have been condemned after using draconian stop-and-search legislation against a woman with special needs in Newry.
The disturbing incident took place on Saturday night, September 7 outside the woman’s home at Carnagat Park as the woman’s carer was collecting her to stay at a relative’s home nearby.
Annette Quinn, who is an aunt of prominent Saoradh member Stephen Murney, requires constant care and medical attention. The 50-year-old became the target of a heavy-handed PSNI search operation after her carers sought to protect her from unnecessary duress caused by their detention.
Her carer and sister Martina Murney explained that she attends a day care facility and is never left unaccompanied at night. “I thought it was disgusting the way they handled the whole thing and threatened to take her to the police station,” she said. “She does not understand any of this.”
Local Saoradh activist Cliodhna McCool described the incident as “sickening”.
“The RUC mercenaries refused to allow this disabled and clearly agitated woman to leave the vehicle and held her against her will as they waited for back-up to arrive.
“The victim’s sister, who is her main carer, tried to explain to those carrying out the search that the person is disabled, vulnerable and was being stressed due to what was happening.
“This fell on deaf ears and the RUC/PSNI even threatened to take the disabled woman to [PSNI base] Ardmore Barracks if she could not be searched on the street. They also threatened her carer stating if there are any issues it would be obstruction.”
She said the stop and search “took a more sickening twist” as she was “taken from the vehicle, spread-eagled and forced to endure a humiliating search of her person. This happened despite her family being given several previous assurances that this would not be necessary due to her serious medical condition.”
She said the woman comes from a highly respected republican family. “They are absolutely livid that she would be targeted in this way,” she said, adding that the seriousness of what happened wouldn’t be lost on the local community:
“The PSNI falsely claim they are protecting communities yet are targeting the most vulnerable in society. This incident completely smashes and exposes the reality of the current charm offensive being pursued by the RUC and their cheerleaders. No amount of pathetic photo opportunities within some local communities can disguise their true agenda on the ground.
“This is a grotesque incident carried out by sick members of the Crown Forces. Saoradh challenge all those who claim the RUC has changed to come out publicly and condemn the forces responsible and to withdraw their support immediately.”
A recent analysis revealed that the PSNI has used ‘stop and search’ powers 35,000 times against children alone over the past eight years.
Newry City Sinn Féin councillor Liz Kimmins described the PSNI’s decision to target a woman with special needs as “deplorable”.
“This well-known person who clearly would be identified as a vulnerable woman was subject to inappropriate and insensitive treatment by these officers, who despite her very visible distress, continued their ‘operation’,” she said.
“Those who witnessed this heavy handed stop and search procedure on this vulnerable lady were deeply angered and shocked.”
She said she would be raising the issue at the next meeting of the Policing Community Safety Partnership (PCSP).
“The public rightly expect the PSNI to be held to the very highest policing and human rights standards,” she said.
The family of the victim have said they will be logging the incident with their legal representatives and human rights organisations.