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7 September 2006 Edition

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Child informers used by PSNI

The PSNI are to continue the use of children as informers, it has been confirmed. Assistant Chief Constable Judith Gillespie approved the PSNI policy of paying children to spy on their neighbours, family members and other children last year. Cynically, the decision was packaged as part of the PSNI's child protection policy.

The policy is to continue despite concerns about the inappropriate nature of the use of children as informers in relation to their human rights and despite evidence to suggest that payments to children can encourage drug addiction or fuel more crime.

A recent incident in the Short Strand area of east Belfast highlights the detrimental impact the use of children as "£10 touts" can have, not only on the children themselves, but also on a neighbourhood.

Local Sinn Féin representative Niall Ó Donnghaile has pointed out that the PSNI, like the RUC before them, have a history of sustaining young criminal elements within nationalist communities by recruiting them as informers.

"It's one of the consequences of political policing. The PSNI are prepared to turn a blind eye to the activities of anti-social and criminal elements in return for information," says Niall.

"Last weekend there were a number of break-ins on homes in the Short Strand area, including one where car keys were stolen from a house and the householder's car subsequently stolen.

"At the scene of one incident, the householder noticed the thief had dropped some of his personal documents, amongst which was a card for Strandtown PSNI barracks and a contact telephone number.

"The use of children as informers not only puts their safety in question, it can also impact negatively upon the communities to which they belong. The use of children as '£10 touts' is totally unacceptable and the PSNI need to clean up their act immediately," says Ó Donnghaile.

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