Northern Ireland news

Woman 'frantic' after attempt to recruit her as an an informer

North Belfast woman Danielle Crawford says she has been left feeling 'intimidated' after Special Branch approached her. Picture by Cliff Donaldson
Connla Young

A north Belfast woman has been left feeling "frantic" after an attempt to recruit her as an an informer.

Danielle Crawford, who has children with a prominent north Belfast republican linked to Saoradh, said she has been approached twice by the same officers in recent weeks.

The PSNI confirmed that a man and woman who approached her last month are police officers attached to the Crime Operations Department.

It oversees the running of the PSNI’s C3 Intelligence Branch, which was previously known as ‘Special Branch’.

The mother-of-two said the same couple had approached her days earlier in plain clothes.

Ms Crawford, who said she is currently experiencing “personal issues”, claimed she found the encounter unnerving and was forced to flee to a nearby pharmacy to escape the pair.

“I said 'I don't want to speak to you, you are intimidating me, I don't feel safe’."

She also said the woman later attempted to contact her by phone and she was left feeling “frantic”.

She added during the second approach the couple were in an unmarked police car and dressed in PSNI boiler suits.

Ms Crawford said she locked herself in her own car after the female officer insisted she get out.

She said she is not involved in politics.

“I am no tout and I will never be a tout,” she said.

“I go to work and come back, I rear my kids and I don't do anything illegal."

SDLP councillor Paul McCusker said he has raised the matter with the PSNI’s local district commander and confirmed his party colleague Dolores Kelly has brought it up at Policing Board level.

“Clearly to me it looks like harassment and has left this woman shaken, distressed and upset,” he said.

“It has raised questions about who are these people and how they know information about her."

Ms Crawford’s solicitor Darragh Mackin, of Phoenix Law, said he has written to both the PSNI and Police Ombudsman.

“The persistent and aggressive nature of these approaches are deeply concerning."

Assistant Chief Constable Barbara Gray said: “The incident you refer to relates to a policing operation run by the Crime Operations Department.

She said the “aim of every policing operation is to keep people safe” and that police officers “must operate in a way that complies with human rights legislation and in line with PSNI’s Code of Ethics”.

“Anyone with a complaint about the actions of police should contact the Office of the Police Ombudsman.”

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