PSNI defend stop and search powers after Eirigi launch

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The PSNI have defended defended their stop and search powers after stinging criticism from the republican socialist group Eirigi.

The group have launched an online initiative against what they claim are police tactics “deliberately designed to confuse” during street searches.

The dedicated website and mobile phone app is described as a way of informing people of their rights in relation to PSNI searches.

It was launched this afternoon at the Eirigi office on the Springfield Road.

Speakers included Breandan Mac Cionnaith of Eirígí and Belfast-based solicitor Michael Brentnall.

Eirígí’s Padraic Mac Coitir said very few people know their rights when stopped by the police.

“This lack of knowledge of one’s rights by individuals has actually worsened through the PSNI’s increasing use of multiple pieces of legislation during ‘stop and searches’,” he said.

“We are of the view that this tactic is deliberately designed to confuse and perplex those who are subject to stop and search on the streets.

“At present, members of the PSNI are able to use at least 30 separate combinations of various sections of the Justice and Security Act, the Terrorism Act, the Firearms Order, and PACE in order to conduct stop and searches and to question people on the street.”

Mr Mac Coitir said some nationalist parties “have forgotten that one of the demands of the civil rights movement...was the repeal of the Special Powers Act,” and added: “Repressive laws have become so much part of the fabric of life in the six counties that the mindset of constitutional nationalists has veered away from viewing repressive legislation as anything other than normal”.

However, a PSNI spokeswoman said: “The use of stop and search powers is a sensitive issue for many in the community. However, these powers are essential in keeping the public safe and are used only when necessary, to protect the community, and the police officers who serve it.

“The police service’s use of stop and search has and will continue to be scrutinised by the Policing Board’s Human Rights adviser and the Independent Reviewer of the Justice and Security (NI) Act 2007.”

She added: “Any member of the public who has a complaint in relation to stop and search can bring it to the Police Ombudsman’s office.”

The PSNI has said that the use of stop and search has been - and will continue to be - scrutinised by the Policing Board