Sinn Fein Councillor Tony McCaul has expressed anger and disappointment at what he has claimed was his wrongful arrest by police investigating paramilitary activity in the Dungiven area.
The 62-year-old Foreglen man was released unconditionally late on Thursday, shortly before 11pm, after being in custody since early morning.
“I’m very angry, very disappointed,” said Colr. McCaul, speaking exclusively to the ‘Journal’. “I’m 62 years of age and I’m not involved in anything. I want the police to come out and say they’ve made a mistake.”
Colr. McCaul said when police arrived at his house they told him they had a warrant to search his home under the Terrorism Act, and said they believed he was involved in paramilitary activity based on intelligence. He was allowed to get dressed and arrange accommodation for his wife who had to leave their home as police conducted a search of the property. He was then driven to Antrim Police Station, accompanied by three police officers.
“I was absolutely confident they had nothing on me because I know I have nothing to hide,” said Colr. McCaul, who is a member of Limavady Policing and Community Safety Partnership. During the almost 16 hours he was detained, Colr. McCaul said he was quizzed about the ‘North Derry Republican Group’.
“I’m very angry because I, and my party, have worked hard to promote community relations with the police and get people to accept the PSNI. I am on the PCSP and I have gone out, around houses and knocked on doors, delivering leaflets about crime prevention and attended meetings with police. I and my party have gone out on a limb, and how do they repay me? They arrest me and take me to a crime suite in Antrim. It doesn’t make sense.”
Colr. McCaul said the arrest and subsequent search of his home was distressful for him and his family, and that it has “knocked me back.”
“I have a great relationship with the local PSNI, but I believe my arrest will damage relations locally with people in Foreglen, and possibly in Dungiven,” he said.
Colr. McCaul said he believed the PSNI have “made a mistake”, and he wants his name cleared.
“I want the PSNI to come out and say ‘this man has no involvement in parliamentary activity’,” he said, “because I really am baffled. The arrest makes no sense given the work I do.”
In response, DCI Una Jennings said: “This is a wide-ranging investigation encompassing numerous incidents most of which took place over a four-year period dating back to January 2011. It has been conducted to the highest professional standards and is subject to all the checks and balances provided by accountability arrangements and the criminal justice system.
“Police have a duty, to victims and to the community, to follow all lines of enquiry without fear or favour. We are committed to treating everyone equally before the law. Four of the men arrested yesterday have been released unconditionally. One remains in custody assisting police with their enquiries.
“If anyone has a complaint to make about the actions of police they should contact the Office of the Police Ombudsman.”