3 April 2003 Edition

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The PSNI man, the child, and his hurley


An eleven-year-old boy was stopped by members of the PSNI this past week for carrying an "offensive weapon" - a hurling stick.

The child was walking home alone along the Whitewell Road at 10.30 pm on Tuesday 25 March when an unmarked car pulled up behind him and a man emerged.

"I thought it was kidnappers," said the boy, "because they stopped behind me. A man got out and said, 'What do you think you're doing?' I said, 'Just walking down the road.'

"They started asking me my name and where I lived and told me they would take me home. They took my hurling stick off me and told me I wasn't allowed to carry it."

The peeler then put his hand on the child's head, pushing the boy into the back of the unmarked car. Once inside the vehicle, they continued to question the frightened child.

"They asked me my date of birth and my postcode, how old I was and what school I went to."

At no time did the PSNI men identify themselves to the boy as PSNI officers, nor did they identify themselves to the child's mother when they arrived at her open door unannounced and simply walked in.

"I came into the hall and there was my son with this man standing beside him," said the boy's mother. "The man came straight up my hall and never let on who he was. He had my child by the arm and he said 'Can I talk to you?' and I said, 'Well, could you come in please?' - because it was dark and I was a bit freaked out."

"I said, 'Come into the living room' and then asked him what was wrong. He never introduced himself or said he was a policeman. I just knew by looking at him that he was. He was wearing one of those black PSNI boiler suits. He had my son's hurley in his hand and said, 'well, he was walking down the street banging an offensive weapon off walls."

I said, 'Where's the offensive weapon? What do you mean?' And he says, 'this here.' I said, 'But that's a hurley. He was playing earlier this evening."

"The PSNI man just kept saying, 'You know I can do him for carrying an offensive weapon. I can do him for that.'"

"Then the PSNI man said my son was not allowed to take his hurley onto the street anymore. I said, 'what do you mean, how can he not be allowed out with it? He plays hurling over in the park. So does that mean every time he's out with the hurley he's going to be arrested?"

"My child was the colour of a corpse. He just kept apologising to me, saying, 'Mammy, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

The PSNI man then asked the child's mother for her own personal details, writing them down in a notebook. Although neither she nor her son gave her first name, the man addressed her by it several times during the course of their conversation.

"The PSNI said they had been watching my child as he walked down the road, but then why did they chose to stop him at the junction of the Whitewell and Serpentine Roads? It's like they were cordoning him off."

"My son was on his own. They stopped him just around the corner," said his mother. "I didn't even know they had put him in the car. They never told me that. I thought they had just trailed him down the street. To put a child in a police car - it would frighten me. You don't even know who you're getting lifted by. They had no hats on, nothing. Just the boiler suits."

"I was so stunned by it all, I was really shocked. So I never even got the man's name or a phone number. At no stage did he say to me, 'I'm so and so, I'm out of Antrim Road barracks or wherever, and because I was panicking I didn't think to ask. But I felt like saying, 'if somebody had been attacking my son would you have been so quick to stop the car and pick him up?"

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1