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Derry PSNI pays out £55,000 in stop and search compensation claims
4 Mar 2019
Derry and Strabane police have paid out £55,000 in compensation after members of the public took legal action over stop and search incidents. Figures obtained by way of a freedom of information request show that officers have stopped and searched people 14,393 times in the Derry and Strabane policing areas since 2015. It also shows that just under £55,000 in compensation has been handed out in relation to stop and searches in Derry and Strabane since 2016 – nothing was paid out in 2015. Last year the highest amount of, £45,996.60, was paid out, £2,000 in 2017 and £7,000 in 2016. Independent Nationalist candidate for the Moor, Emmet Doyle, has described stop and search tactics as “targeted harassment”. He commented: "This is another example of how police resources are not being used to detect and address crime in our community, but to seemingly target and harass individuals. “We have already seen the high rate of terror arrests leading to unconditional releases for those against whom the police can provide no evidence. “It is time that the community sought to address this in a calm and informed way, and I will keep working to uncover information to inform that debate." There are a number of different legislative powers in Northern Ireland under which people can be stopped and searched. These include the Terrorism Act, the Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) (Northern Ireland) Order, Misuse of Drugs Act, Firearms Order and Justice and Security Act. Recently published PSNI statistics show that between 1 October 2018 to 31 December 2018, a third of those stopped and searched in the local policing area were aged 18 to 25. Responding to the implication that these powers amount to “targeted harassment”, Superintendent Alan Hutton said the PSNI’s purpose is to keep people safe and stop and search powers are used to help protect communities across Northern Ireland. He explained: “We are fully committed to ensuring the fair, effective and legitimate use of stop and search powers which are vital in helping us to prevent, detect and investigate crime. “We are mindful of the impact that such powers have on the community and we seek to ensure all of our interactions are professional, respectful and courteous. “Members of the public have a number of ways to voice their concerns about police actions. One is legal action which can, in certain circumstances, result in the payment of compensation if a court upholds a complaint.” He added: “PSNI, however, continually reviews practice, training and the use of body worn video during searches. There are processes in place to ensure stop and search powers are used effectively and proportionately. These include oversight from the NI Policing Board, the Office of the Police Ombudsman for NI and The Independent Reviewer, who is appointed by the NIO. “There is no doubt that stop and search is an extremely important power when used fairly and effectively and we are listening to our communities and using stop and search powers to help tackle crime and build a safer society.”
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