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‘PSNI must review stop and search powers’ Anderson

30 September, 2009 - by Maeve McLaughlin

Policing Board member Martina Anderson has called upon the PSNI in Derry to review the use of controversial Section 44 stop and search powers.

The Foyle Sinn Féin MLA was speaking after police in Hampshire, England, suspended their use of stop and search powers under the so-called Terrorism Act after figures showed no arrests were made despite a huge increase in the use of these powers.

Ms Anderson commented:

“In the three months between April and June, there were 357 people stopped and searched under section 44 in the Foyle area. Only one of these people was subsequently arrested.

"Already in England it is accepted that the use of section 44 powers has a negative impact on relations between the community and the Police. The Metropolitan police reviewed the practice of using Section 44 powers and announced their intention to cease their use.

"It has since been revealed that police in Hampshire, in England, are to follow suit and suspend the use of Section 44 powers after figures showed no arrests under Section 44 were made despite a huge increase in the numbers of stop and searches.

"People in Derry want to see civic and accountable policing. They want a police service that will deal robustly with serious issues affecting their daily lives such as drugs and criminality in our communities. And while excuses of lack of resources are regularly quoted for failure to respond to incidents of burglary, robberies and anti-community activity it seems, judging by the figures for Section 44 searches, that there is infinite resources for what is perceived as political policing.

"The reality is that the use of Section 44 powers by the PSNI undermines attempts to demonstrate to the community that the PSNI can deliver an effective, accountable and civic policing service. The use of these powers is unnecessary as the PSNI have adequate powers to stop and search without having to resort to the use of so called Terrorism legislation. As James Welch, Director of English Human Rights group Liberty said 'Normal stop and search powers, triggered by reasonable suspicion, are more than adequate for routine policing and far less likely to alienate law-abiding people'." ENDS

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