- I have been stopped between 40 and 60 times a year since 2008 and nothing has been found. It’s not just me, they have also stopped my children on their way to school. It is just plain harassment - Steven Ramsey.
The North’s British police force, the PSNI, has aborted a planned appeal to the Supreme Court. It is the Supreme Court in London, not Dublin. The latter city hosts the Supreme Court an Irish Police force would go to. The British police use their own Supreme Court beyond the sovereign jurisdiction of Irish law. That tells us everything we need to understand about the sovereignty of the North. It does not reside in Ireland but in Britain.
What the PSNI hoped to contest were rulings in May whereby 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.’
That rulings resulted from cases taken by former H Block blanket man Bernard Fox, his partner Christine McNulty and Derry republican Manus Canning, all of whom objected to the invasive stop and search policy used by PSNI members against people they politically disapprove of.
The potential abuse intrinsic to the policy cited by the Appeal Court is validated in the case of Canning whose lawyer revealed that he had been subject to the intrusion more than 100 times. What possible excuse other than vindictive political harassment could lie behind that startling figure?
Canning's solicitor Paul Pierce commented:
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.
Nevertheless, in spite of the ruling and the subsequent PSNI decision not to proceed to the highest British court, the force is carrying on regardless with its harassment. On a the return journey home from a jail visit the partner of imprisoned republican Stephen Murney was stopped and searched. éirígí general secretary Breandán Mac Cionnaith complained:
It is clear that PSNI were deliberately targeting relatives visiting Maghaberry prison for no other reasons other than that of pure harassment and vindictiveness ... It is quite clear that abuses under this legislation are still continuing.
Not only are those the PSNI politically disapprove of targeted for this procedure but so too are their families and legal representatives.
Recently barrister Plunkett Nugent was stopped and searched on his way to court. Mr Plunkett was representing a man facing charges in relation to the possession of an explosive device. He told Derry Magistrate’s Court that he believed he was deliberately stopped because of his professional work in that case.
The magistrate Barney McElhome told the court that 'an independent legal profession is one of the corner-stones of democracy and nothing should be done to obstruct that.' It is that very independence the PSNI is trying to subvert in a bid to intimidate the legal profession so that it can more easily make the law a Kitsonian tool for disposing of unwanted members of the public.
The legal profession has every reason to harbour misgivings about the North’s British police force. In the past members of that profession have been the target of loyalist assassins because of the same police passing on information to their killers. In the case of the IRA slaying of Mary Travers who was shot dead as she accompanied her father, a Belfast magistrate, on her way home from Sunday mass, there were suggestions from Tom Travers who was seriously injured in the attack that the police at the time failed to act thoroughly and professionally because they were protecting an informer, a charge disputed by by Former Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan.
What this selective aggressive police behaviour indicates is that what has changed in the North is not the essence of policing but the perceived level of threat to the British state. Were the threat to re-emerge on a par with that posed by the Provisional IRA, police powers would be both as widespread and draconian as they always were. Reformed appearances amount to Sweet FA.