Belfast Telegraph

Police stop and search 35,000 Northern Ireland kids in eight years

Stop and searches increased by 74% in Northern Ireland between 2005 and 2016 (stock photo)
Stop and searches increased by 74% in Northern Ireland between 2005 and 2016 (stock photo)

In the last eight years 35,000 children have been subjected to stop and search by the PSNI, according to new research.

While the use of the powers fell by 75% in England in Wales between 2005 and 2016, their use increased by 74% in Northern Ireland over the same period.

The statistics were compiled by Queen's University academic John Topping and University of Central London's Ben Bradford ahead of a conference on young people, policing and stop and search powers in Northern Ireland.

Stop and searches can be carried out under "ordinary" policing powers and under terrorism and security legislation.

The majority of stop and searches in Northern Ireland are carried out under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Each year there are around 31,000 carried out, of which around 22,000 are under ordinary policing powers.

According to the research, the arrest rate following stop and searches is 7%, compared with 17% in England and Wales.

Wednesday's conference, which will take place at Queen's University, will be attended by the PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne and Koulla Yiasouma, the commissioner for children and young people in Northern Ireland, among others.

Dr John Topping said the conference is a "timely and much needed" look of the issues of policing children and young people.

"While much of the past 20 years have been about structural and systemic changes to policing here, children and young people have tended to remain on the margins of the police reform process," he told the BBC.

In a statement, a PSNI spokesperson said there has been a 34% drop in the number of stop and search of young people over the last five years.

"The PSNI do not regard arrest as the only positive outcome as a result of stop and search,"they added.

"The primary purpose of stop and search is to enable officers to allay or confirm their suspicions without exercising their power of arrest."

"Since April 2019, 749 young people were stopped and searched with three-quarters being under Misuse of Drugs legislation.

"This is a proactive response to the increase in young people losing their lives whilst under the influence of drugs and a direct response to community concerns."

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