Derry man stopped ‘150 times’ subject to ‘arbitrary’ police actions: court told

The Court of Appeal in Belfast.
The Court of Appeal in Belfast.

A Derry man stopped and searched under anti-terrorism legislation more than 150 times was subject to arbitrary police actions, the Court of Appeal has heard.

Counsel for Steven Ramsey claimed his right to privacy was breached by powers used to detain him without justification by any suspected dissident republican associations.

Mr Ramsey (41) is a former member of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement.

He has stated that he does not belong to any illegal organisation or political party and has no convictions for paramilitary activity.

The case centres on stop and search actions carried out under the Justice and Security (NI) Act 2007.

Mr Ramsey says he was subjected to 35 searches in 2009, 37 in 2010, another 23 in 2011, 31 in 2012 and a further 30 up to August 2013.

Notes from some of the searches indicated that he was stopped due to “suspected dissident republican links” or “as a result of confidential briefings”.

Proceedings issued against the Chief Constable and Secretary of State focus on seven incidents after a code of practice was introduced in 2013.

The applicant, from Derry’s Creggan area, argues the power to detain him contravened Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In 2018, the High Court found that PSNI failures to record the grounds for searches under scrutiny were inconsistent with a code of practice.

But a judge dismissed the challenge after deciding the evidence established there had been a basis for each incident.

Appealing that ruling, Mr Ramsey’s legal team insisted the stop and search authority was not subject to adequate legal safeguards and amounted to harassment.

Karen Quinlivan QC submitted: “The power is used more than it should be, which suggests it’s an arbitrary power that doesn’t have sufficient controls.”

The court heard that, being categorised as a dissident republican through not supporting the Good Friday Agreement, was not enough reason for the action taken against him.

Concerns must relate to any suspected munitions or wireless apparatus.

Referring to the repeated incidents, Ms Quinlivan added: “The applicant identified one officer he says routinely stopped him, and identified situations where he is stopped within a short period of time.”

The appeal, which is listed for two days, continues.