Harassment victim wins appeal over PSNI stop-and-search

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A Derry republican is set to sue the PSNI for compensation after the Court of Appeal agreed that his human rights had been breached by four years of harassment directed against him.

Steven Ramsey was repeatedly stopped and searched under repressive “anti-terrorism” legislation. He does not belong to any political organisation and has no convictions for IRA activity, but over a period of four years he was subjected to more than 150 incidents of Crown Force harassment.

Notes from some of the searches indicated that he was stopped “as a result of confidential briefings”.

Mr Ramsey, from Derry’s Creggan area, successfully argued that the power to detain him had contravened Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In 2018 the High Court found that PSNI failures to record the grounds for searches were inconsistent with a code of practice. But a judge later dismissed the challenge after claiming there had been a basis for each incident.

Appealing that ruling, counsel for Mr Ramsey pointed out that the stop and search authority is not subject to legal protections. She argued that not supporting the 1998 Good Friday Agreement was insufficient reason for his constant harassment at the hands of the PSNI.

The appeal judges agreed with her, and concluded that the scheme as a whole contains insufficient safeguards to protect the individual against arbitrary harassment. The PSNI breached Mr Rasmey’s human rights due to the failure to record the basis for his detention, the court confirmed.

Following the ruling Mr Ramsey’s lawyer, Fearghal Shiels of Madden and Finucane, said the PSNI effectively ceased subjecting him to stop and search once he brought the proceedings in the High Court and the PSNI were required to submit sworn evidence to the court.

“His position in bringing these proceedings has been totally vindicated by today’s decision, and he will now be advised in relation to an action for damages against the Chief Constable.”

In response to the judgement, Saoradh said the use of stop and search legislation “is a tool in the hands of the British state used in an attempt to harass and intimidate Republican activists.

“On a daily basis Republicans across the Occupied Six Counties are targeted by Crown Force personnel via this illegal legislation. They have been aware that this practice has been illegal for a number of years yet continue to use it, while at times failing to abide by their own code of conduct. They are a law unto themselves.”

The ruling “has once again proved that British Crown Forces are guilty of human rights abuses,” they said.

“This is not an isolated case and in many stop and searches Republicans are often found facing further trumped charges as a result of erratic behaviour from Crown Force personnel.”

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