Three police officers have been disciplined for the way they dealt with two teenage boys during a stop and search in Ballyclare in March this year.
The boys lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman’s Office, alleging that police had no justifiable reason for conducting a stop and search and had treated them oppressively while doing so.
One of the boys also questioned whether it had been appropriate to use security legislation to stop him and obtain his details.
A Police Ombudsman investigator seized and examined the notebooks of the officers involved, and other police documentation including stop and search records and command and control logs.
Mobile phone video footage supplied by one of the boys was also examined.
When interviewed, the officers involved said they stopped the boys as they had been “acting suspiciously.” They said that when they drove past the boys had hidden their faces by putting up their hoods and turning their heads.
They recalled that they had asked the boys why they had hidden their faces, but none of the officers could remember their responses, and no record had been kept in any police documentation.
Enquiries also showed that there had been no reports or intelligence of any thefts, burglaries or criminal damage in the area.
The investigator concluded that he was not satisfied that the search of one of the boys, who had been stopped and searched under the Police and Criminal Evidence Order, had been necessary.
He noted that the legislation required an officer to have “a reasonable suspicion” based on the circumstances and the likelihood of finding a prohibited article.
“None could remember what response the boys gave when asked why they hid their faces, which would have been a key factor in deciding whether a search was justified,” he said.
The other boy was stopped and asked for his details under the Justice and Security Act. Police guidance states that such powers must only be used when justified and, wherever possible, less intrusive powers should be used.
“Given the circumstances, I am not satisfied that this power has been used appropriately,” the Police Ombudsman investigator concluded.
He also considered that video footage recorded by one of the boys contained evidence of an officer acting aggressively towards the boy. It showed the officer bearing over the boy while refusing to respond when asked for a reason for the search.
Examination of records of the search completed by the officers also showed discrepancies. The time for the incident was found to differ by up to an hour and 10 minutes in different records, while in one record the incident was incorrectly recorded as having happened at one of the boy’s home addresses.
All three officers have since been disciplined by police for failures in the way they dealt with the situation.