80% of Derry terror arrests yield no charge

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Eighty-per cent of terror arrests executed without a warrant in Derry and Strabane over the past five years resulted in unconditional release, it’s been confirmed by police.

That’s a far higher rate than in the North as a whole where just 66.1 per cent of arrests under anti-terror legislation culminated in ‘suspected terrorists’ being released without charge.

Data released by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) under the Freedom of Information legislation show that of 206 arrests that were made under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000 in the Derry and Strabane policing district between January 1, 2014, and December 31, 2018, 165 went nowhere.

The PSNI Statistics Branch have confirmed that across the North as a whole there were 833 Section 41 arrests during the same five financial years but that only 551 (66.1 per cent) of these resulted in the detainee being unconditionally released.

In Derry, meanwhile, police have also confirmed that a large number of arrests were of repeat suspects and that these two-time or more detainees accounted for almost half of the unconditional releases on record.

“There were 34 persons arrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000 on more than one occasion and unconditionally released in Derry City and Strabane policing district during the past five years. These persons accounted for 80 of the 165 unconditional releases,” the PSNI advised.

Under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act a police constable is allowed to arrest someone without a warrant if they “reasonably suspect” a person is a terrorist.

A person arrested under this clause of the anti-terror legislation can be held and questioned for a period of up to 48 hours after which they must be either charged or released.

The PSNI said that the high rate of release did not mean that the suspects were not later being reinvestigated.

“An ‘unconditional release’ does not necessarily mean there will be no further investigation.

“Indeed in many cases the investigation continues and will result in further arrests of the subject, when new evidence comes to light, disposal by charge or a subsequent report for prosecution.

“As Terrorism Legislation does not currently allow for police bail, investigators must release persons at the end of their period of detention in circumstances where they do not have sufficient evidence to charge,” police said.

The PSNI further cautioned that the figures released by its data-crunchers were provisional and could be subject to change.

The authorities currently maintain a list of proscribed organisations active in the North. This was updated in April and includes the Continuity Army Council, Cumann na mBan, Fianna na hÉireann, Irish National Liberation Army, Irish People’s Liberation Organisation, Irish Republican Army, Loyalist Volunteer Force, Orange Volunteers, Red Hand Commando, Red Hand Defenders, Saor Éire, Ulster Defence Association, Ulster Freedom Fighters and Ulster Volunteer Force.