Concerns raised over police '˜encounter' with schoolchildren

Police have claimed an interaction with children in Derry was 'entirely ordinary' in response to concerns raised by a local councillor.

Friday, 30th June 2017, 10:37 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 11:30 am
Independent Derry & Strabane Councillor Warren Robinson, and right PSNI Chief Inspector Alan Hutton.

Ballyarnett Independent Councillor Warren Robinson questioned the actions of the PSNI during an episode last week in the Shantallow area.

Mr Robinson said he was contacted by local residents following the incident and claimed one of the families of the children may have been known to police.

Police responded, however, that engagement with young people is an important part of policing and expressed disappointment at “a negative” account of what occurred. during what they said was an “entirely ordinary” encounter.

Mr Robinson said: “I was contacted by residents of Shantallow who were concerned after local primary school children who are aged between six and eight years old and who were returning home from school were stopped by two members of the PSNI who were positioned in a jeep outside Shantallow shops. “The parents told me that their children came home with lollipops and when they were questioned as to where they got them it transpired that the two PSNI members had stopped the children, spoke to them and then proceeded to give the children lollipops.”

Mr Robinson claimed that at least one of the children was “possibly known” to the PSNI following a raid on the parents’ home some time ago,

He alleged: “I believe that this incident could have been a sinister attempt to garner information from the child in relation to a family member. This is fundamentally wrong on so many fronts and it does not bear thinking about the potential consequences for the child and his family.”

He went on: “Even if it wasn’t an attempt to gain information from an eight year old child I still find these actions highly sinister and alarming. They go against the very good advice around Stranger Danger where young children are warned against speaking to or accepting sweets or gifts from strangers.

“Either way the PSNI need to explain to our community why their officers are approaching children in this fashion knowing that they are not in the presence of a responsible adult.”

When contacted for a response to the Mr Robinson’s comments, PSNI Chief Inspector Alan Hutton said: “Engaging with all members of the community, including our young people, is an important part of policing, therefore it is disappointing to read such a negative and inaccurate commentary on an entirely ordinary interaction.”