Belfast Telegraph

Row over duo aged 15 and 17 detained under terror laws

By Donna Deeney

Police are right to use anti-terror legislation to deal with children involved in dissident republican activity, according to one Policing Board member.

DUP MLA Ian McCrea was speaking after the PSNI was criticised for arresting two teenagers - a girl of 17 and a boy of 15 - under anti-terror legislation.

They were arrested in Derry last Thursday and taken to Antrim Serious Crime unit for questioning about dissident republican activity. Both were later released unconditionally the following day, prompting criticism from Sinn Fein and a human rights group over the use of anti-terror laws.

Speaking generally, Mr McCrea said dissidents "don't believe people... should have human rights, so why not [use the legislation]?"

He added: "Why shouldn't the PSNI be allowed to use this legislation? I would have no difficulty in its use. At the end of the day, regardless of the person's background, everyone wants to remove the dissidents off the streets."

Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney said he will raise the use of anti-terrorism legislation on children with the Policing Board.

The Sinn Fein man added: "No-one is saying that the PSNI cannot carry out an investigation but there has to be a better way of doing it than a team from the Serious Crime Branch coming into an area in armoured vehicles to take a 15-year-old boy out of his home when using a police car would have more appropriate when dealing with a minor.

"This causes a lot of anxiety for the boy, his family but also for everyone in the local community and sets back the good relationship with the local PSNI which has taken a long time to build up."

A Foyle PSNI spokeswoman said that the operation had not been a local one.

She added: "The two suspects were arrested by the investigators using what they deemed the most appropriate legislation."

Maggie O'Connor, a case worker with the Pat Finucane Centre said she was "deeply concerned" at the overnight detentions.

Both the PSNI and Police Federation declined to comment on the use of the legislation to arrest youths.

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