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Northern Ireland: Disproportionate number of Black and minority ethnic people subject to Covid fines and stop-and-search

Worrying data revealing that a disproportionate number of Black and minority ethnic people were subject to stop-and-search and fined for alleged breaches of the Covid regulations in Northern Ireland has left the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) exposed to accusations of racial bias, Amnesty International has said.

An investigation published by The Detail, based on figures obtained through Freedom of Information requests, shows:

  • The PSNI issued 4,818 fines for alleged breaches of Covid regulations? across Northern Ireland between January 1 and July 1, 2021. Of the 3,565 fines where ethnicity was recorded, those with an ethnic minority background counted for 6.6% (236), despite this group making up around 1.8% of the population in Northern Ireland.
  • The PSNI handed out 647 Covid-related community resolution notices – warnings that do not incur a fine – between January 1 and July 1 2021. Of the 482 fines where ethnicity was recorded, those with an ethnic minority background counted for 3.9% (19).
  • The PSNI carried out 26,576 stop-and-searches across Northern Ireland between October 1, 2020 and September 13, 2021. Of the 26,430 stops where ethnicity was recorded, those with an ethnic minority background counted for 4.5% (1,200).

In response to the new figures, Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International UK, said:

“These figures are deeply worrying. The Chief Constable has committed to rebuilding the PSNI’s damaged relationship with Northern Ireland’s Black and minority ethnic communities, but these figures will not help, and – once again – leave the PSNI exposed to accusations of racial bias.

“The police need to adequately explain the racial differential for their use of COVID fines, community resolution notices and stop and search. So far, they have not been able to do so.

“Without a credible explanation for the disproportionate focus on ethnic minorities, the matter should be examined by the Policing Board and may trigger a complaint for investigation by the Police Ombudsman.”

Ilyas Nagdee, Racial Justice Lead at Amnesty International UK, said:

“The data published today further calls into question the tactic of Stop and Search which Amnesty has raised repeatedly, in particular its disproportionate focus on racialised communities.

“Since its implementation, Stop and Search powers have further entrenched racial discrimination into the criminal justice system.

“With the Policing Bill making its way through Parliament, the Home Office has admitted the extension of stop and search powers will discriminate against racialised communities particularly Black and Gypsy, Rome and Traveller Communities. Although policing is devolved to Northern Ireland, these figures demonstrate why this power must not be extended but rather reduced to prevent further discrimination against racialised and Traveller communities.”

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