Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Condemnation of “deplorable” police stop and search actions on vulnerable woman

An incident in the Carnagat area of Newry last weekend where a lady, described as disabled and vulnerable, was subjected to “inappropriate and insensitive treatment” during a stop and search operation by the PSNI has prompted an angry reaction from political representatives.

Newry Sinn Fein councillor Liz Kimmins revealed police officers stopped the lady outside her home on Saturday evening last and demanded to search her bag, actions which led to the lady becoming “visibly distressed” and prompted Kimmins to brand the officers’ actions as “unacceptable and deplorable”.

Vowing to raise the issue at the next meeting of the Policing Community Safety Partnership (PCSP), Councillor Kimmins said: “A woman was stopped outside her own house by PSNI officers who demanded to search her bag. 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’.

“Those who witnessed this heavy-handed stop and search procedure on this vulnerable lady were deeply angered and shocked.  I have no hesitation in stating clearly that the actions of the PSNI were unacceptable and deplorable.  I will raise this issue at the next meeting of the PCSP. 

“The public rightly expects the PSNI to be held to the very highest policing and human rights standards. That is the approach Sinn Féin take to the policing structures and we intend to ensure they are held to account for any instance where officers fall below the standards expected,” she added.

The incident was also condemned by representatives of republican group Saoradh who say they were contacted by the victim’s family immediately afterwards. 

Saoradh spokesperson Cliodhan McCool described police tactics as a“shocking example of abuse”, revealing that the lady, who is aged in her 50s, suffers from a serious medical condition, has complex special needs and relies on constant care.

She claims that despite the lady’s sister pointing out her vulnerable state, the police continued to search her belongings and threatened to take her to Ardmore Barracks if the search could not continue on the street.

Ms McCool says the victim’s family, fearing for her health and wellbeing, began to record the incident which was met with “aggression and threats of arrest for obstruction” from police.

They have indicated their intention to log the incident with their legal representatives and human rights organization, the Committee of the Administraion of Justice [CAJ], she added.

In response to the criticism, PSNI Chief Inspector Nigel Henry said: “We are mindful of the impact that stop and search powers have on the community and we seek to ensure all of our interactions are professional, respectful and courteous.

“PSNI is 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 have a number of governance groups to ensure police powers are being used fairly and effectively.”