A Derry man has claimed the PSNI attempted to recruit him as an informer against dissident republicans or “ruin his life” if he refused.
Father of four Paul Ward also accuses the PSNI of pursuing a five year campaign of intimidation against him.
Mr. Ward told the Journal that he was stopped on the Coshquin Road at 10pm on Tuesday night where officers offered him “everything to co-operate.”
Explaining what happened, Mr Ward said: “I was driving home along the Coshquin Road, near Whitehouse on Tuesday, when suddenly a policeman stepped out of nowhere and pulled over my van. Two plain clothes officers then got into the vehicle. They told me they’d been following me all night as they wanted my help informing them on dissident republicans in Derry.
“They accused me of running armed gangs in Creggan. I’m not involved in anything illegal nevermind gangs. They told me that they’d search my house until they found something. My family home has been raided four times in the last year and they haven’t found anything illegal. We can’t rest in our beds at night for fear the police are going to put our door in.”
Mr Ward’s solicitor Paddy McGurk described the saga as; “A crazy situation, in which the PSNI is causing horrendous distress to Paul and the Ward family for a number of years now. They are picking his home life apart.
“The important point is that in five years of searches they have never found anything connecting him to illegal activity.”
In order to clear his name and “live in peace” Mr. Ward, his solicitor and a number of local community and political leaders such as Sinn Fein’s Billy Page are calling for a meeting with the PSNI.
Mr. Ward said: “”It is all intimidation, my wife is just recovering from cancer but isn’t even allowed to rest in her own house.”
Mr. Ward claimed that the CID officers offered to “Buy me a new van, pay me well and give me as many holidays as I could take. They basically said I could have anything I wanted if I helped them.
“When I declined the officers said I had two choices, help them or they would make the rest of my life a misery.
“I honestly thought I would be killed on that road. They were armed to the teeth and I thought, ‘No one knows I am here.’”
Mr Ward then exited the vehicle and walked home.
Mr. Ward first clashed with the police when his son was arrested near their Ballymagroarty home. During that 2007 incident he, his son who has learning difficulties and a neighbour all claim they were sprayed in the face with CS spray while handcuffed.
Ten public order charges against them were thrown out at the local Magistrate’s Court. Mysteriously the CS spray canister disappeared from evidence during the case.
Mr. Ward filed a civil action against the officers involved but was ultimately unsuccessful.
“That is when they started this campaign of harrasment,” he said.
Since then Mr. Ward’s home has been raided several times, in the last two months PSNI officers telephoned him twice to instruct him they had received a bomb warning for his home address. The police even asked Mr. Ward to check under his own car and initially refused to send officers to investigate the threat.
“It was ridiculous, they asked me to go looking for a bomb. I’m at breaking point with all this.
“I am asking the PSNI to meet me. I’m an innocent man and have done nothing wrong but I feel like going to the bridge with all of this. It is going to kill me one way or another.
“The police certainly know where I live, they know my solicitor, I have previously requested a meeting with them, there is no need to be stopping me on back roads in the dark of night.”
Sinn Fein representative and personal friend of Mr. Ward said: “I can categorically state that this man is not connected to any political party or group. The PSNI are harrassing an innocent man. These PSNI actions are setting community policing back years in Ballymagroarty. The dogs in the street see what the police are doing to the Ward family.
“My main concern is for Paul’s safety. The pressure the PSNI are putting this man, his family and his health under mean he is at breaking point. I thought we’d moved away from this type of policing, tactics and pressure.
“I am calling on Strand Road police to justify these actions.”
Mr. Paddy McGurk confirmed he has filed another complaint to the Police Ombudsman on behalf of Mr Ward and is examining the possibility of further legal action against the PSNI for harrasment. “I also want the PSNI to agree to a meeting to discuss the case,” he stated.
When asked to comment on the allegations a spokeseperson for the PSNI said only: “We do not comment on intelligence matters and no inference should be drawn from this. However, in line with all other police services across the UK the PSNI’s policy in relation to the use of Covert Human Intelligence Sources is strictly governed by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and is fully compliant with Human Rights legislation.
“Anyone with a genuine complaint to make regarding police action should contact the Police Ombudsman.”
A spokesperson for the Ombudsman’s Office said: “We’ve received a complaint about an incident which is alleged to have happened after a man’s car was stopped by police in Derry on Tuesday night. We are currently dealing with the complaint.”