Riots' Photo ID Successes 'Wrong'

Identifying young rioters by publishing pictures of them is 'wrong' according to a report published by a committee of the North's Policing Board.

Even though the police viewed the publication of photographs to identify rioters in north Belfast and young people suspected of involvement in crime in Londonderry as a great success, the watchdog body's statement said it should only be done if there is a serious risk to the public, or the young person.

Last year, the PSNI published photos to try and identify young people suspected of being involved in crime but the report described the move as "a retrograde step".

During 2010, in Belfast, 23 images were released following very serious rioting in Ardoyne last July with 16 of the individuals subsequently identified, arrested and charged.

In Londonderry, 133 images, including 50 of juveniles, have been released to the press - with 24 juveniles identified by members of the public.

However, the Policing Board has slammed the move and has published the latest in a series of Human Rights Thematic Reviews - this time it is the Children and Young People Review.

It looks specifically at how the PSNI meet their human rights obligations in some key areas relating to children and young people.

Speaking about the Review's findings, Chair of the Board's Human Rights and Professional Standards Committee Basil McCrea, said: "The experiences shared with the Committee show that children and young people can have very different experiences depending on where they happen to live. That is unacceptable and must be addressed.

"We sought to engage with children and young people on issues relating to the policing of anti-social behaviour, police practice regarding the dispersal of young people, public order and crowd control; and alternative disposals such as community restorative justice," he said.

"What is clear from this Review, however, is that the PSNI recognises - perhaps better than most - that effective policing requires innovative ideas and collaboration with local communities.

"We also welcome that the PSNI recognises that children and young people are central to any effective policing strategy," he said.

However, Mr McCrea insisted that publishing photographs could endanger those involved because of the possibility of attacks by paramilitaries, and breach their right to privacy.

The report said the PSNI should never release images of any person under the age of 18 into the public domain, except where the release is necessary for the purpose of protecting the general public or the young person from serious injury, and only after all reasonable methods have been tried and failed.

Acting Vice Chair of the Board Gearóid Ó hEara said: "Contrary to what many believe, children and young people are more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators of it.

"The Committee wishes to encourage and support the PSNI to continue to engage with local communities in a meaningful and sustained way and to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour at the local level, relying on local expertise and the work already underway by community-based groups."


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