In 2020 there were 25,000 stop and searches in Northern Ireland, with 6 percent leading to an arrest according to an investigation by VICE World News and The Detail.
Young people aged 13 to 17 made up almost 12percent of total stops and those aged 18-25 made up 46 percent, with 4 percent leading to arrests.
A new film exploring controversial Stop and Search policing powers in Northern Ireland has been launched The Playhouse Street Talk Youth Art Project.
Written by Laurence McKeown, the film was created in consultation with police officers, community workers, academics and young people from PUL and CNR backgrounds.
Section 24, Schedule 3 was launched by the Justice Minister Naomi Long at a virtual event in the city on Wednesday night (May 26).
Speaking at the launch, Human Rights Advisor to the Northern Ireland Policing Board (NIPB) John Wadham said the film was “creative and insightful” and “raises a whole series of questions”.
“I hope it is taken around more areas of Northern Ireland to encourage more discussions” he said.
“If only one in one hundred of the tasks I carried out was productive, my employer would sack me- yet that is the statistic for stop and search…. It’s very significant the number of young people in Northern Ireland whose only interaction with the police is stop and search. These problems are not going to go away.”
PSNI Superintendent Gordon McCalmont from the Crime Prevention & Early Intervention Branch also spoke at the launch, saying “We’re on a journey. We must take more opportunities to listen to people and communicate why stop and search happens. The last thing we want to do is bring young people into conflict with the justice system. I don’t see an arrest as a successful outcome. We saw in the film how paramilitaries are radicalising young people, and stop and search can help with that grooming.”
The short film is the first of the three to be launched this year by The Playhouse Street Talk Youth Art Project, which creates a safe space for young people to explore law, justice and policing.
It tells the story of a young man called Alan whose father had been active during the Northern Ireland Troubles.
“Alan is repetitively stopped and searched by the police. His youth worker feels there are no grounds for him being stopped and searched” Elaine Forde, Head of Engagement at The Playhouse said.
“As the film continues we see the decisions Alan takes. Although the film is fictional our story is steered by the experiences of young people we engage with from both communities.”
“This launch event created an opportunity for an honest conversation about a contentious and complex issue. Last year 25,000 people where stopped and searched with 58% (14,100) being young people aged 13-25, with few arrests. The stop and search power is alienating young people from our society, and in some instances from our peace process. We hope to continue this conversation to find solutions and to encourage positive change.”
The film was launched by Justice Minister Naomi Long, who also participated in the post screening question and answer session.
Justice Minister Naomi Long said: “I’m grateful to The Playhouse and to the local Policing and Community Safety Partnership for shining a light on the use of ‘stop and search’ powers through this short film, Section 24, Schedule 3. The film will help encourage us to open a dialogue; sharing our differing perspectives on a topic that can sometimes be hard to broach. I really do welcome the opportunity to hear all shades of opinion on this issue and am pleased that the film aims to encourage young people to have their say. Confidence in policing is a critical issue, and a fundamental building block of our society.”
The other panellists included Una McCartney Senior Youth Worker from Longtower Derry Londonderry, and the playwright Laurence McKeown. The panel was chaired by Paul Smyth Youth Engagement Specialist and Activist.
The audience was made up of young people from PUL and CNR communities in Derry and Belfast, representatives from PSNI, Department of Justice, Policing Board, Education Authority, Youth Justice Agency, community activists and youth workers.
In 2019 The Playhouse gained funding from the Department of Justice Asset Recovery Community Scheme (ARCS) administered by Policing Community Safety Partnership (PCSP).
Over the past six years Street Talk has been commissioned to create short educational films which explore issues highlighted by the young people.
The Playhouse Street Talk Project is funded BBC Children in Need. For more information about The Playhouse Street Talk Youth Art Project visit www.derryplayhouse.co.uk