Police officers in Northern Ireland used anti-terror stop and search legislation more than 10,000 times last year, a new report has revealed.
The thematic review of PSNI performance was carried out by the Policing Board’s human rights advisor.
The vast majority of the searches were carried out under the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 – giving a constable power to search anyone for unlawful possession of “wireless apparatus or munitions”.
Eleven recommendations – regarding improved record-keeping, monitoring and public accountability – have been made as a result of the 114-page report. In addition to the 10,657 anti-terror searches (down from 16,464 in 2011/2012), a further 20,800 were carried out by officers under PACE in relation to non-terrorist related crime.
Commenting on the report, Policing Board chairwoman Anne Connolly said: “The board monitors the police use of stop and search and stop and question powers on an ongoing basis in the Human Rights Annual Reports. This thematic review is a dedicated and in-depth scrutiny of the use of the powers following community concerns raised with the Policing Board.”
Ms Connolly said the powers were an “area of significant public interest” and added: “The powers to stop and search and stop and question under the Terrorism Act and the Justice and Security Act are exceptional powers which must be used lawfully and proportionately. Accountability is an essential prerequisite for public confidence in the police service.
“The board wishes to encourage further debate and engagement with the community on this issue.”
The report documents there were 64 recorded shootings and 44 bombing incidents last year.
In relation to the “widespread” dissident threat posed to police, it said: “The constant struggle against what remains of violent republicanism in Northern Ireland warn against complacency.”