Multiple stop and searches 'rights breach'

Published Monday, 13 January 2014
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A Derry man stopped and searched dozens of times under anti-terrorism legislation suffered human rights breaches, the High Court has heard.

Multiple stop and searches 'rights breach'
Mr Ramsey says he's been stopped nearly 100 times by police. (© Pacemaker)

Lawyers for Steven Ramsey claimed the police practice interfered with his rights to privacy and liberty under European Law.

Mr Ramsey, from the Creggan area of the city, is seeking a judicial review of powers used to repeatedly detain him.

He claims that since 2008 he has been stopped nearly 100 times under the Justice and Security (NI) Act 2007.

But his legal challenge is focused on incidents alleged to have occurred since a code of practice was introduced in May last year.

Counsel for Mr Ramsey contended that police have continued to breach their powers since then.

No dispute was raised to his denials of involvement in any illegal organisation or political party, and lack of convictions for paramilitary activity, it was pointed out.

He has not been arrested as a result of any of the stops.

In written legal arguments developed in court, Karen Quinlivan QC claimed the procedure was incompatible with the Article 8 right to privacy and family life under the European Convention on Human Rights.

"In this case the applicant has been stopped on numerous occasions in public by police officers and obliged to submit to a search of both his person and the vehicle in which he was travelling," she contended.

"He was detained for various periods of time ranging from 2 minutes. Refusal to submit would have been likely to lead to arrest and detention. There has, therefore, been interference with the right guaranteed in Article 8."

Ms Quinlivan argued that the power used in her client's case could not be said to be necessary in a democratic society.

In a further point, she claimed the police actions breached his Article 5 rights to liberty.

According to her case Mr Ramsey was deprived of his freedom, regardless of the duration of the searches to which he was subjected.

"The applicant was stopped, obliged to remain where he was and submit to the search and if he had refused he would have been liable to arrest, detention and criminal charges," she said.

The legal challenge is relying on a ruling that similar operations which targeted a former IRA hunger striker and a brother-in-law of Martin McGuinness were unlawful.

The case centres on stop and search actions carried out under the Justice and Security (NI) Act 2007.

Last year the Court of Appeal identified a lack of adequate safeguards against potential abuse of the system in the cases of Bernard Fox and Marvin Canning.

Mr Canning, from the Glendara area of Londonderry, claimed powers used to stop and question him up to 100 times were incompatible with his right to privacy under European law.

The 55-year-old, who is related to the Northern Ireland deputy first minister through marriage, alleged that Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers were sometimes oppressive and confrontational.

Proceedings were also brought by Mr Fox, who took part in the 1981 IRA hunger strikes inside the Maze prison, and his companion Christine McNulty.

The Belfast man served more than 20 years in prison for offences including possession of explosives before being released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Police stopped a car he and Ms McNulty were travelling in near Camlough, County Armagh, in March 2011.

The hearing in Mr Ramsey's case continues.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
2 Comments
Tomc in Belfast wrote (284 days ago):
Time for paramilitaries and their supporters to take their oil...
Michael Monaghan in Belfast wrote (285 days ago):
Time for the PSNI to end political policing in the North ...
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