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Ex-republican prisoner hits out over PSNI stop and search of daughter's schoolbag

A video grab of a PSNI officer searching a teenage girl's schoolbag 
Connla Young

A WEST Belfast man has complained to the Police Ombudsman after the PSNI searched his 15-year-old daughter’s bag as she made her way to school.

Former republican prisoner Risteard Ó Murchú hit out after his teenage daughter and 12-year-old son were involved in a stop and search operation as he left them to school last week.

Mr Ó Murchú, who sits on the national executive of the anti-agreement party Saoradh, said he has been stopped and searched up to ten times in the past month.

During one incident last week a PSNI officer was filmed searching the girl’s schoolbag at a west Belfast roadside after her father was stopped as he drove her to St Dominic’s Grammar School where she is studying for her GCSE’s.

Footage of the incident was later posted on social media.

Mr Ó Murchú also claims that during a recent stop and search near Coláiste Feirste, where his son is a pupil, a teacher had to escort the child into the school grounds after he was held by police .

Both schools declined to comment.

Ó Murchú said that while he expects to be stopped, he believes his children should not be targeted.

“I feel they are trying to pressurise the family in a way of getting at me,” he said.

However, police defended their actions.

Chief Inspector Norman Haslett said: "The appropriate use of stop and search powers is an important tool which assists police officers to keep the community safe from criminals."

And he added: "I acknowledge that within the community of West Belfast there are alternative views towards the use of stop and search by police and as the local Chief Inspector responsible for the day to day policing of the area I am more than happy to discuss these views with interested parties.

"Where there is any learning to be gained by police from individual incidents, this will be reflected upon and adopted as we continue to do our job to protect the community from harm".

People before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll described stop and search operations involving children as “a harmful and unnecessary impingement on the rights of young people”.

Mr Ó Murchú’s solicitor Michael Brentnall has contacted the Police Ombudsman.

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