Concern at high use of anti-terror powers in Derry/Strabane with 2,245 stop and searches in just two years

The PSNI are being urged to record the background of people stopped under anti-terror legislation as figures show it was used on over 2,000 occasions in just two years in Derry/Strabane.

Tuesday, 23rd February 2021, 3:38 pm

Data show there were 2,245 instances of people being searched under the Terrorism Act 2000 and Justice & Security (NI) Act 2007 from October 2018 to November 2020.

The vast majority involved JSA Section 24 (2,052) which relates to searches for ‘munitions and transmitters’, followed by JSA Section 21 (169), a power allowing police to question a person about their movements and what they might know about ‘a recent explosion or another recent incident endangering life.’

Twenty-four searches also took place under TACT Sections 43 and 43A which allow police stop a person they suspect is a terrorist.

Figures from October 2019 to September 2020 confirm TACT and JSA powers continue to be used in Derry/Strabane more often than any other district.

Brian Gormally, director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) claimed: “These stop and search powers are draconian and infringe on the right to a private and family life (Article 8 European Convention on Human Rights).

“They must only be used when strictly necessary, justified by a real threat to people and proportionate to the harm to be prevented.”

Mr. Gormally said the PSNI should ‘immediately begin monitoring the community background of those stopped, as urged by many reports and the courts.’

Independent Derry & Strabane Councillor Gary Donnelly expressed concern over high levels of stop and search.

He said: “The vast majority of these searches would be inflicted on the nationalist/republican community.

“These statistics will come as no surprise to the working class people of Derry and Strabane,” he said.

Colr. Donnelly raised further concerns over house raids and the operation of MI5 in the city.

PSNI District Commander for Derry City and Strabane Chief Superintendent Darrin Jones said: “We use stop and search powers only when necessary to help protect communities throughout Northern Ireland. These powers are vital in helping us to prevent, detect and investigate crime.

“We recognise that the use of these powers is a sensitive issue for our communities. I can assure the public, we continually review our practices and training, and have processes in place to ensure that stop and search is used effectively and proportionately. We have a number of governance groups to ensure police powers, including stop and search, are being used fairly and effectively.

“Following a number of recommendations to the Police Service in terms of the community monitoring of stop and search activity, a working group has progressed significant research with a view to establishing options for implementation.

“These options, which are informed by a complex data protection impact assessment and have been prepared in consultation with the information Commissioner’s Office, are due to be discussed during March at the PSNI’s Policing Powers Development Group. The Policing Board and the Independent Reviewer of Justice and Security Powers have been regularly updated on progress.”