PSNI abandons stop-and-search appeal bid

Published Friday, 06 September 2013
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Police have abandoned a planned Supreme Court challenge to a ruling that stop-and-search operations involving a former IRA hunger striker and a brother-in-law of Martin McGuinness were unlawful.

PSNI abandons stop-and-search appeal bid
Canning's lawyer said he will proceed to claim for damages. (© UTV)

Senior judges in Belfast were told on Friday that an appeal by the Chief Constable and Secretary of State in the cases of Bernard Fox and Marvin Canning was no longer being pursued.

Both men are now to press ahead with claims for damages against the PSNI, with Mr Canning's lawyer disclosing he has been stopped more than 100 times.

Earlier this year the Court of Appeal held there was a lack of adequate safeguards against potential abuse of the system used under the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007.

Canning, from the Glendara area of Derry, claimed the stop and question powers were incompatible with his right to privacy under European law.

The 55-year-old, who is related to the Deputy First Minister through marriage, alleged that officers were sometimes oppressive and confrontational.

He denies any involvement in terrorism but confirmed he is a member of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, stating it is not an illegal organisation.

Police had rejected claims that powers under the Act were arbitrarily used against him.

Our client will now be pursuing a claim for damages, having been subjected to these stop and search powers in excess of 100 times.

Solicitor Paul Pierce

A similar judicial review challenge was brought by 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, Co Armagh in March 2011.

Their vehicle was searched for munitions, while an officer allegedly took Ms McNulty's handbag and went through its contents.

Fox denies any involvement with dissident republican activities. Police argued that the power was not intended to be used randomly, but rather on the basis of threat.

Lawyers in both cases successfully overturned a previous High Court decision that no violation under the European Convention on Human Rights had occurred.

In the Court of Appeal ruling Lord Justice Girvan identified the absence of a code of practice for stop and question operations under Section 21 of the Act.

The legal framework pending the introduction of an effective code does not contain the kind of safeguards against potential abuse or arbitrariness, he held.

Although amendments have been made to the section dealing with stop and search actions, the court ruled in favour of Fox and Ms McNulty based on the situation at the time.

Counsel for the Chief Constable and Secretary of State was expected to attempt to appeal the verdicts at the UK's highest court.

But Tony McGleenan QC told the Court of Appeal: "I have received instructions this morning that we are not to pursue the application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in either the Fox or McNulty cases."

Following the notification Canning's solicitor Paul Pierce of KRW Law said: "In view of the decision by the Chief Constable and the Secretary of State to abandon this appeal, it now confirms the ruling that the stop and search powers used by police were unlawful.

"The fact that a code of practice has now been introduced does not remedy the unlawful use of these wide-ranging powers."

© UTV News
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6 Comments
David in BELFAST wrote (229 days ago):
Those who live a life of crime, terrorism etc either now or have done in the past run the risk of being stopped and searched on a daily basis. There is nothing wrong with that. If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about. Its obvious and stands to sense that the ones that will be targeted the most are the ones that are high up on the polices radar. Surely any sensible right minded person would agree that terrorist scum need to be stopped. They have no regard for the human rights or privacy of others when they plan attrocities and bombings but yet when they themselves are stopped they are the first to kick up a stink. Good on the PSNI and keep up the good work no matter what the courts say.
piquant in norn iron wrote (230 days ago):
If senior police chiefs were so dilligent in pursuing the legislation their people work with instead of t.v. cameras and soundbites this might not have happened. Yet another feather in your cap, Mr Baggot?
Taxi Paul in Belfast wrote (230 days ago):
I was stopped 100s of times after standing up to a policemen when he was rude. I was stopped again and again and again over a period of two years (about thirty police were involved in the harassment) and asked to produce the same documents again and again and again. I was stopped on night Five times within 30 minutes on the same stretch of road. Can I sue, I am not political or is justice just for those with influence When I complained the ombudsman said they could no do anything about 'policing trends' their other favourite phrase is insufficient evidence' More importantly are the police who abusde their power being sacked or are they being allowed to keep their positions so they can re-offend?
A concerned citizen in Northern Ireland wrote (230 days ago):
These powers have not been abused as only people the police suspect as being involved in terrorist activity are searched. We need to get out of Europe and the sham that is the European convention on human rights where the only people with no rights are the victims.
reality in Belfast wrote (230 days ago):
Thought we'd got rid of the rotten RUC? This smacks of the old tactics of harassment!!!
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