Police in the six counties “appeared to ignore the rules” when strip-searching children. This is according to a report carried out by the Policing Board, released 27 June.
During 2022, the PSNI strip-searched 27 teenaged children. While police argued that all of these cases were “justified”, 25 found nothing.
Of the children strip-searched, the youngest was 14. Twice as many Catholics were searched as Protestants – 10 and four respectively – with the remained either having no religion or refusing to specify.
“In the vast majority of cases identified by this research during 2022, the PSNI appeared to ignore the rules, and no one was present to support the young person during this very invasive and humiliating use of power by officers,” said the report.
This is far from the first time in recent years that the rebranded RUC has been embroiled in controversy over its treatment of young people.
For the past two years, there have been continuous demands for the force to release information relevant to the case of Noah Donohoe – information it continues to withhold. The 14 year old’s body was found in a storm drain 27 June 2020. The PSNI requested and received a Public Interest Immunity certificate which redacted information, which Noah’s mother Fiona believes is being used to cover up her son’s death.
Elsewhere the PSNI has continued to use violence against young people; in 2020 the PSNI arrested a 14-year-old with autism after using force to restrain him during a raid on the family home. Officers cited “suspicion of assault on police”. The child was subsequently released.
Despite this, the PSNI continues to regular visit and attend primary schools across the six counties as part of its efforts to make it seem like a normal police force, and to accustom children to the sight of armed police; the only regularly armed police force in Britain and Ireland.
Water cannons and rubber bullets are still regularly used against young people. In many instances over the last number of years, the arrival of the PSNI has served to instigate further rioting and violence. The PSNI continue to use plastic bullets against young people, despite the weapons killing 17 people during the Troubles. The majority killed were under 21, eight were children. Many more were seriously injured or blinded.
A new mural by the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets will be unveiled on the International Wall, Belfast, on 8 July 2023, at 3pm.
Amnesty International has said the continued use of plastic bullets and water cannons against young people is “extremely alarming”.
“Water cannons are inherently indiscriminate and have the potential of causing serious injury and even death. They can cause all manner of injuries by forcefully knocking a person over, can cause permanent loss of sight, or can pick up loose objects and propel them as missiles. In any volatile situation, their deployment could be a recipe for disaster,” they said.
Despite this, their use against young people during riots is a regular on in the six counties. This stands in stark contrast to the thorough criticism, bureaucracy and outrage which Boris Johnson caused in 2011 when the possibility of deploying water cannons during the London riots was raised.
Because of course, when have Irish people ever bee protected by the “British tradition of policing by consent and the limited appropriate use of force by the state?