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23 October 1997 Edition

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Child's ordeal at hands of Paras and RUC

By Mick Naughton.

The appearance in a Belfast courtroom of a ten year old boy from Ardoyne in North Belfast on Monday 20 October highlighted the level of sectarianism endured by even the youngest members of the nationalist community.

The judge was forced to dismiss the case, questioning why a ten year old was even there in the first place. He levelled strong criticism against the RUC for pursuing what was clearly a serious example of base sectarianism against a minor.

Ten year old Francis Booth's ordeal began with his arrest last spring by the RUC who described him as ``a main rioter in the Ardoyne area''.

Francis had been rifle-butted across the head by a British soldier from the 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment and thrown into an armoured personnel carrier in Flax Street.

He was then held illegally for over an hour, being driven around the area before being thrown out. Following the incident Francis's parents registered a complaint against the crown forces.

``A classic tactic by the RUC of issuing counter charges against anyone pursuing a complaint against them,'' was how local Sinn Fein councillor Mick Conlon described the whole disturbing saga.

``The crown forces should catch themselves on. It's utter nonsense to describe a ten year old schoolboy as `a main rioter'. The Paras and RUC must be withdrawn immediately if the people on the ground are to have any faith in a future settlement,'' he said.
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