Top

Road safety survey prompts police harassment, Newry man claims

September 30, 2013

A Newry man who had been undertaking a traffic survey to monitor pedestrian safety has claimed he was the victim of harassment and intimidation by members of the PSNI while attempting to carry out his study.
The survey was initiated by Councillor Davy Hyland and his constituent, John McCabe from Mourneview Park, had spent a number of days over the last two weeks monitoring traffic in an area of the Armagh Road, where motorists were using an unused entrance gate to turn, mounting the public footpath in the process.  Mr McCabe felt this manoeuvre was presenting significant risk to the safety of pedestrians using the footpath, which is close to a busy shopping complex and opposite Damolly Retail Park.
Last Monday, as part of the survey, Mr McCabe was taking photographs of cars mounting the footpath when he was approached by two police officers.  He claimed the officers challenged him in an intimidating manner and accused him of taking photographs of a security van servicing a nearby ATM, despite the fact that the vehicle was obscured from vision by a large sign.
One of the officers further suggested that Mr McCabe may have been ‘gathering information useful to terrorists and criminal groupings’.
Mr McCabe says he was particularly alarmed by this suggestion, considering the recent situation in which another Newry man is in jail awaiting trial on similar allegations.
Describing the incident, Mr McCabe said: “During the course of my voluntary, community-spirited research, I was subjected to harassment and false accusation at the hands of the PSNI, which was reminiscent to that of the RUC.
“A police car pulled alongside me and a male and female officer approached me asking what I was doing.  I explained that I was carrying out a traffic survey with accompanying pictures, on behalf of Councillor Hyland, and in the interests of general public safety
“I went on to explain that the week previous I had sat for five days, three hours each day counting cars with no PSNI objections or interest shown about my activities then.
“The male officer went on to suggest that I could be possibility taking photographs of a security van at a great distance away restocking an ATM at Fiveways, which was not visible from where I was standing, being obstructed by a large traffic sign.”
Mr McCabe says the female officer then snatched his phone off him and scrutinized its contents before her colleague further suggested that he may have been involved in gathering information useful to terrorists.
“I am very mindful of another recent case with such accusations landing a man in prison and I treat this development as sinister.”
“[The police] then proceeded to radio my date of birth, name and address through, as dozens of on-lookers gathered. I felt humiliated as people speculated had the police caught a shoplifter, with me clutching my wee bag of provisions,” McCabe continued.
“I asked both officers for a pen and a piece of paper so I could take the male officer’s name and number in order to complain about my treatment, but they refused.  I then asked the male officer to apologise to me, to which he replied ‘you will be getting no apology from me’.”
Mr McCabe said 15 minutes passed before he was allowed to go home, having been instructed not to take any more photographs.
Angry at being accused of having ulterior objectives while helping to improve road safety in his area, he says he will be seeking legal advice regarding his treatment by the PSNI officers.
“I must categorically state that I am not affiliated with, or a member of, any political organisation or groupings,” he said.
“I have teamed up with Councillor Hyland because several years ago we were very successful when I was the former member of the then Mournveiw Park Community Association.  Myself and Davy got ramps installed in the park and I was hoping to replicate pedestrian safety on the Upper Armagh Road.
It’s ironic that I find myself doing the same work as the PSNI – working for the betterment and welfare of our respective communities – yet I become victimised for having a shared interest in that objective.”
Councillor Hyland confirmed that is was concern over traffic issues on the road that prompted the survey and says he is ‘taken aback’ by the reaction of the PSNI officers and their treatment of Mr McCabe.
Speaking to The Examiner, Councillor Hyland said: “I’m fully supportive of John. He’s a recognised community activist in the Newry area and was concerned about certain traffic issues on the Armagh Road.
“Of his own accord, he had taken it upon himself to survey the area in an effort to highlight a potential safety risk to pedestrians.  I was somewhat taken aback and surprised to hear he had received this type of treatment from police.  Initially he was stopped but I think the behaviour of the police officers towards him is great cause for concern.  They should have ascertained quite early on that he was not presenting any difficulty, but their whole attitude towards him was extremely negative.”
Stating that he is prepared to take the matter further, if required, he added: “I think their behaviour was completely over the top and is not the way a so-called police service should be treating its own citizens.“I will continue to support John and help him in any way I can, including raising the matter before the Council if he wishes.”
Despite the interruption, Mr McCabe completed the survey, the findings of which are the basis of an article contributed by Councillor Hyland [see separate article].

A Newry man who had been undertaking a traffic survey to monitor pedestrian safety has claimed he was the victim of harassment and intimidation by members of the PSNI while attempting to carry out his study.The survey was initiated by Councillor Davy Hyland and his constituent, John McCabe from Mourneview Park, had spent a number of days over the last two weeks monitoring traffic in an area of the Armagh Road, where motorists were using an unused entrance gate to turn, mounting the public footpath in the process.  Mr McCabe felt this manoeuvre was presenting significant risk to the safety of pedestrians using the footpath, which is close to a busy shopping complex and opposite Damolly Retail Park.Last Monday, as part of the survey, Mr McCabe was taking photographs of cars mounting the footpath when he was approached by two police officers.  He claimed the officers challenged him in an intimidating manner and accused him of taking photographs of a security van servicing a nearby ATM, despite the fact that the vehicle was obscured from vision by a large sign.One of the officers further suggested that Mr McCabe may have been ‘gathering information useful to terrorists and criminal groupings’.Mr McCabe says he was particularly alarmed by this suggestion, considering the recent situation in which another Newry man is in jail awaiting trial on similar allegations.Describing the incident, Mr McCabe said: “During the course of my voluntary, community-spirited research, I was subjected to harassment and false accusation at the hands of the PSNI, which was reminiscent to that of the RUC.“A police car pulled alongside me and a male and female officer approached me asking what I was doing.  I explained that I was carrying out a traffic survey with accompanying pictures, on behalf of Councillor Hyland, and in the interests of general public safety“I went on to explain that the week previous I had sat for five days, three hours each day counting cars with no PSNI objections or interest shown about my activities then.“The male officer went on to suggest that I could be possibility taking photographs of a security van at a great distance away restocking an ATM at Fiveways, which was not visible from where I was standing, being obstructed by a large traffic sign.”Mr McCabe says the female officer then snatched his phone off him and scrutinized its contents before her colleague further suggested that he may have been involved in gathering information useful to terrorists.“I am very mindful of another recent case with such accusations landing a man in prison and I treat this development as sinister.”“[The police] then proceeded to radio my date of birth, name and address through, as dozens of on-lookers gathered. I felt humiliated as people speculated had the police caught a shoplifter, with me clutching my wee bag of provisions,” McCabe continued.“I asked both officers for a pen and a piece of paper so I could take the male officer’s name and number in order to complain about my treatment, but they refused.  I then asked the male officer to apologise to me, to which he replied ‘you will be getting no apology from me’.”Mr McCabe said 15 minutes passed before he was allowed to go home, having been instructed not to take any more photographs.Angry at being accused of having ulterior objectives while helping to improve road safety in his area, he says he will be seeking legal advice regarding his treatment by the PSNI officers.“I must categorically state that I am not affiliated with, or a member of, any political organisation or groupings,” he said. “I have teamed up with Councillor Hyland because several years ago we were very successful when I was the former member of the then Mournveiw Park Community Association.  Myself and Davy got ramps installed in the park and I was hoping to replicate pedestrian safety on the Upper Armagh Road.It’s ironic that I find myself doing the same work as the PSNI – working for the betterment and welfare of our respective communities – yet I become victimised for having a shared interest in that objective.”Councillor Hyland confirmed that is was concern over traffic issues on the road that prompted the survey and says he is ‘taken aback’ by the reaction of the PSNI officers and their treatment of Mr McCabe.Speaking to The Examiner, Councillor Hyland said: “I’m fully supportive of John. He’s a recognised community activist in the Newry area and was concerned about certain traffic issues on the Armagh Road.“Of his own accord, he had taken it upon himself to survey the area in an effort to highlight a potential safety risk to pedestrians.  I was somewhat taken aback and surprised to hear he had received this type of treatment from police.  Initially he was stopped but I think the behaviour of the police officers towards him is great cause for concern.  They should have ascertained quite early on that he was not presenting any difficulty, but their whole attitude towards him was extremely negative.”Stating that he is prepared to take the matter further, if required, he added: “I think their behaviour was completely over the top and is not the way a so-called police service should be treating its own citizens.“I will continue to support John and help him in any way I can, including raising the matter before the Council if he wishes.”Despite the interruption, Mr McCabe completed the survey, the findings of which are the basis of an article contributed by Councillor Hyland [see separate article].

Bottom