A Sinn Fein MP’s claim that proposed new stop and search powers at the Irish border will “politicise” the PSNI have been rejected as “far-fetched nonsense” by a former senior RUC officer.
The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, which is currently passing through Westminster, could see any member of the public stopped within a mile of the border to establish if they are entering or leaving Northern Ireland.
Under the proposed law, an “examining officer”– namely a PSNI constable, an immigration officer or a customs officer – can question and detain a person if they are suspected of being involved in “hostile activity”.
Some republicans and nationalists have expressed concerns about the bill, with Sinn Fein MP Gerry Kelly describing it as “draconian” and claiming it will be open to abuse.
The North Belfast representative added: “It will also politicise the PSNI to a huge extent as it will ask them to perform duties they shouldn’t be doing.”
And West Tyrone SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan has said the proposed powers to stop, search and detain are “discriminatory targeting of those living around the border or crossing it”.
But former RUC assistant chief constable Alan McQuillan told the News Letter: “The new law is necessary as it gives police power to do something they can’t at the moment.
“The reality is that after we leave the EU in March next year, the border will need to be managed in a sensible way.
“The notion that it will politicise the police is far-fetched nonsense, as bodies such as the Policing Board, the ombudsman and the Human Rights Commission will be watching how police use these powers.
“The other factor is resources. Police are not going to want to run round the border stopping people coming across from Donegal to buy groceries in NI.”
Welcoming the bill, DUP MP Gregory Campbell told the News Letter: “Presumably most people would be supportive of law enforcement agencies taking appropriate action against people who are in NI illegally or who are here legally but engaged in illegal activity.”