An ogre can be someone who is frightening or a ‘man’ who eats people.
So why did this come into my mind having just read an article by the BBC on “What are my rights if I’m stopped and searched?”? We as human beings have a tendency to resort to literature characters who are not real to enable us to describe a situation we are currently in or have experienced.
Firstly, I have yet again to take the BBC to task for being England/Wales centric. The article is professionally written and researched, however, to dismiss Scotland and Northern Ireland with the lines:
…The laws in Scotland and Northern Ireland are different, but there are many similarities with those in England and Wales..
shows a total lack of understanding that each of these countries is unique as is its law. I will not endeavour to speak about Scottish law as I do not live there, however, the law in Northern Ireland is most definitely coloured by the 30+ years of the ‘troubles’. This has polarised a lot of the community in terms of accepting the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland).
Now back to Stop and Search in Northern Ireland, let us do a comparison on stop and search figures:
Stop and Search Comparison
|Country||Year||Population||Statistics of people stopped||Ratio as per population|
|England & Wales||2918||56.1m (approx)||380,000||19 people stopped per every 2810|
|Northern Ireland||2018||1.88m (approx)||28,116||28 people stopped per every 2288|
So, what are your rights if you are ‘Stopped and Searched’ in Northern Ireland?
According to Northern Ireland Direct, and here I will quoted directly…
Who can stop and search you?
Any police officer can stop and search you. If they are not in uniform they must identify themselves before the search takes place. The stop and search action doesn’t mean you’re under arrest or that you’ve done something wrong.
The reasons police can stop and search you
The police can stop and search you:
• if there has been serious violence or disorder in the area
• if police are looking for a suspect who fits your description
• if police have reasonable grounds to suspect you’re carrying drugs, a weapon or stolen property
• in countering terrorism
What happens in a stop and search?
If you’re stopped and searched:
• you must stay for all of the search
• police must make sure the search time is as short as possible
• the search must take place where you were stopped or nearby, unless moving you would protect your privacy
Before a search, a police officer must tell you the grounds for the search, what they’re looking for, their name (except where the stop and search is to do with terrorism) and the station they’re attached to.
If you’re in a public place, you’ll be asked to remove your coat or jacket and any headgear or gloves worn unless the search is to do with terrorism or when police believe you’re using clothes to hide your identity. They can ask you to empty your pockets and open any baggage to help the search….(https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/stop-and-search)
But there is more to be considered; what personal information am I obliged to give the officer?
According to the Citizenship Foundation, this is what you should think about:
…: I do not have to give my name or address to the police
It Depends. You only have to if the police suspect you have committed (or are about to commit) an arrestable offence.
You don’t have to answer a police officer’s questions, but someone who refuses to give their name and address may be arrested if the police officer reasonably believes they have committed an offence. You have the right not to answer any more questions until you have received legal advice from a solicitor.
In Northern Ireland, a person has an obligation to give their name and address and DOB under certain circumstance, together with the answers to some questions, under section 21 of the Justice and Security Act. Consider
Q: If you’ve not done anything wrong, do you think refusing to say your name makes you look suspicious?
Q: Do you think it’s worth having this right if enforcing it means that you could be suspected of committing an offence…
Now consider in April 1993 the Editor of upstart (a local gay publication) stated exactly the same thing, but with the addition of reminding people if they are in doubt then give the minimum information you have to ask to see a solicitor – for Northern Ireland at this time this was really relevant for gay men, as various purges were taking place (the latest at that time being in Belvior Park) and people’s lives were being destroyed.
We all have a right to support the police forces in their given legal duty, but remember they like us are human and can make mistakes.
- Stop and Search – PSNI
- Stop and search – NI Direct
- Stop and search on the rise in Northern Ireland to little effect, data shows – The Guardian
- Stop and Search Statistics – PSNI