PSNI stop and search powers ‘used disproportionately’ against BAME people and children

PSNI stop and search powers 'used disproportionately' against BAME people and children

Stop and search powers are being disproportionately used in Northern Ireland against people from ethnic minority communities and on children, new figures reveal.

A total of 25,503 people were stopped and searched by PSNI officers in 2021, according to the latest statistics, with just six per cent of searches leading to an arrest. Another 14 per cent of searches led to some other form of policing outcome.

People from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds accounted for 1,267 stops, or five per cent of the total, despite making up just 1.8 per cent of the Northern Ireland population according to the last published census figures.

Irish Travellers accounted for 450 stops, 1.76 per cent of the overall figure, despite making up just 0.07 per cent of the population as a whole.

Children aged 13 to 17 made up 10.6 per cent – or 2,716 – of total stops, despite counting for only 6.4 per cent of the population. A further 51 children aged 12 and under were also stopped and searched.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director of Amnesty International UK, said: “If you are from an ethnic minority community you are 2.5 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the PSNI than if you are white. Black and ethnic minority people in Northern Ireland feel over-policed, yet under-protected when they themselves are victims of racist hate crime.

“The use of stop and search on children is also deeply disturbing. There were 2,767 stops of children under these powers last year, yet just 3.75 per cent of searches resulted in an arrest, suggesting the vast majority of stops were wholly unnecessary.

“Every unnecessary stop and search will leave a negative impact on community relations, with thousands of people left feeling unfairly targeted. In the long run, that is very bad news for police community relations.

“Several official studies have concluded stop and search is largely ineffective in deterring and preventing crime and it’s over use is counterproductive, undermining trust and public confidence in policing.

“The use of stop and search powers by the PSNI merits more scrutiny from the Policing Board.”

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