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15 May 2003 Edition

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Baby strip searched by PSNI

The parents of a two-and-a-half-year-old baby girl are outraged that the child was strip searched by the PSNI during a search of their home in Downpatrick on Wednesday 23 April.

The mother of the child is now accusing the PSNI man involved in the strip search incident of child abuse. She told An Phoblacht that she has met with Social Services, who said that what this PSNI man did was wrong.

According to the mother, who doesn't want to be named, the PSNI raided her home on Wednesday 23 April and during the raid woke her baby up out of her sleep and, without asking for permission, removed the baby girl's nappy.

The woman immediately protested at the search, however the PSNI man involved ignored her. The woman, her partner and two other children were in the room and the PSNI made no attempt to search any of them, only the baby.

The mother went on to say that at this point her children started to scream and cry and neighbours came into see what was happening.

The PSNI didn't search any of the other children who were present.

"Its scandalous that a member of the PSNI can take the nappy of my child and carry out an intimate search," she said. "It is wrong to search any child in this way. My partner and I were in the bedroom along with the PSNI when this disgraceful search of my daughter was carried out. They said they were looking for walkie talkies; well they would not find them in a child's nappy."

The mother is also outraged by the response of the Police Ombudman's office to the incident.

"I contacted the Police Ombudsman's Office through my solicitor and was told by them that the PSNI have the powers to search both fresh nappies and nappies being worn by a child if they suspect items they are looking for may be hidden in the nappies.

"If anything had been hidden in my daughter's nappy do you think she could sleep? I would say it would be very uncomfortable for her."

The woman contacted Social Services and a health visitor told her she had never come across anything of this kind before involving young children being searched by members of the PSNI.

Said the mother: "The health visitor told me the PSNI should have asked for permission to carry out such a search, and even a social worker has to ask for a parent's permission. The health professional said the PSNI would have received training in all aspects of searching children and what they did was very wrong."

The mother of three has contacted her solicitor, who is pursuing a case against the PSNI. Kevin Winters told An Phoblacht that he has written to the Ombudsman's office challenging their findings and asking whether or not this search was an isolated case. He has yet to receive a reply.

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An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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