Friday, October 14, 2005

44% Increase in complaints against PSNI

Damian Carney:

Figures released yesterday (Wednesday) by the Police Ombudsman show that the number of allegations against the PSNI has sharply increased in the last year. In the period of April 2004 to March 2005 the number of allegations has risen by 44%.

Grosvenor Road barracks topped the poll for the station with most allegations against the PSNI in West Belfast. From April 2004 to March 2005 there were 90 allegations by members of the public concerning their treatment by PSNI officers based in the barracks. Woodbourne didn't fare much better with 67 allegations in the past year.

Worryingly, the majority of the allegations against the PSNI in the West of the city were serious in nature. There were 101 allegations against PSNI officers of what the Police Ombudsman terms 'oppressive behaviour', amounting to 46.8% of the allegations. Oppressive behaviour is the most serious type of allegation and includes assault, intimidation and harassment.

With 37% of allegations being for failure in duty by PSNI officers, this accounts for the second largest type of allegation. There were 80 such allegations against the PSNI in West Belfast – a staggering rise of 100% on the year before. Lower Falls Sinn Féin Councillor Fra McCann said that the figures reveal a continuing trend of unacceptable PSNI behaviour.

"The figures show that young nationalist males are the main victims of oppressive PSNI behaviour. This is evidence that the behaviour of the PSNI falls well short of anything that represents a new beginning to policing in the North. This type of policing has no place in an impartial non-sectarian society.

I have to question why there is an increase in such allegations. Is it because they know they can get away with it because the accountability mechanisms are too weak?"

Commenting on the Ombudsman's figures, SDLP Upper Falls councillor Tim Attwood accepted that although the figures were up from the previous year, he noted that allegations in West Belfast were down from a high of 239 in 2002.

"The SDLP has absolute confidence in the Police Ombudsman and would encourage anybody who has a complaint against the police to contact the Police Ombudsman. The Police Ombudsman has a proven record of independence and will investigate all complaints comprehensively," said Cllr Attwood.

The Grosvenor Road barracks may have had the worse record in West Belfast, but it was pushed into fourth place for PSNI barracks in the whole of Belfast. Strandtown barracks in East Belfast had 186 allegations against it, and in the North of the city Antrim Road and Tennent Street fared poorly with 144 and 131 allegations respectively. Musgrave Street barracks in South Belfast had 132 allegations against it.

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