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Three police officers disciplined over stop-and-search of boys

Published 29/09/2016

The Police Ombudsman found failings in how officers dealt with a situation in Ballyclare, Co Antrim
The Police Ombudsman found failings in how officers dealt with a situation in Ballyclare, Co Antrim

Three police officers have been disciplined over their handling of the stop-and-search of two teenage boys.

The action follows an investigation by the Police Ombudsman, which found failings in how the officers dealt with the situation in Ballyclare, Co Antrim in March.

The watchdog was tasked to investigate complaints about justification; officers' behaviour and whether appropriate legislation had been used.

When interviewed, police told investigators the boys were acting suspiciously and had hidden their faces by putting up hoods and turning their heads as officers drove past.

Although they recalled asking why, none of the officers could remember the teenagers' responses, and no record was kept in any police documentation.

Enquiries also showed there had been no reports or intelligence of any thefts, burglaries or criminal damage in the area.

In a report, the Ombudsman's investigator said he was not satisfied it was necessary to stop one of the boys under the Police and Criminal Evidence Order.

The legislation required an officer to have "a reasonable suspicion" based on the circumstances and the likelihood of finding a prohibited article, he noted.

"None could remember what response the boys gave when asked why they hid their faces, which would have been a key factor in deciding whether a search was justified," the Ombudsman investigator said.

The second teenager was stopped and asked for his details under the Justice and Security Act.

Police guidance states that such powers must only be used when justified and, wherever possible, less intrusive powers should be used.

"Given the circumstances, I am not satisfied that this power has been used appropriately," the Police Ombudsman investigator added.

Police notebooks and other documentation including stop-and-search records as well as police command and control logs were examined as part of the Ombudsman's investigation.

They showed discrepancies in time and location, with one record incorrectly stating the search had happened at one of the boys' home addresses.

Meanwhile, mobile phone video footage, supplied by one of the boys, showed an officer acting aggressively, bearing over him while refusing to respond when asked for a reason for the search, according to the Ombudsman's office.

All three officers have since been disciplined by police for failures in the way they dealt with the situation.

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