Earlier today, at 2.26pm a press release was issued generally to the media on behalf of a unit in the PSNI Organised Crime Branch who characterise themselves as “The Paramilitary Crime Taskforce” and are based in Limavady Police Station.
The statement announced “Paramilitary Crime Taskforce arrest woman in operation linked to INLA in Derry”.
It continued: “A woman has been arrested in Derry today, Tuesday, 13 June, as part of a proactive police investigation by the Paramilitary Crime Task Taskforce (PCTF) and Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Organised Crime Branch.
“The 27-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of Being Concerned in the Supply of a Class B controlled drug, and she remains in custody at this time.”
Ciarán Shiels of Madden & Finucane, the woman’s solicitor, condemned the operation as “a distasteful and deplorable abuse of powers that are entrusted to police on condition that they are deployed responsibly and proportionately in combating crime affecting society. The true position at this time this afternoon, was that our client already was released from police custody at 2.09pm and was being driven home from Strand Road Police station to recover from her ordeal and to be with her family.
This 27 year old woman is an experienced and well-respected dental nurse who has worked for a number of years in a city centre practice extremely proximate to Strand Road. She has no criminal record. She has never been involved in criminality. Until this morning, she had never been in a police station, much less been arrested or interviewed under caution. At 10.30am this morning officers from the PSNI arrived outside the dental surgery in two landrovers and two police cars. A dog and a dog handler stood outside the surgery and traffic was disrupted in the City Centre. In front of bemused patients and colleagues, our client was singled out by officers. She was dressed in her dental scrubs and was assisting a dentist with a patient in treatment.
Her nearby car was searched and she was then arrested in tears (not under Terrorist Legislation) under the ordinary provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and brought to Strand Road. Her family home where she resides with her elderly father and brother was then also searched by a unit of the same officers. A number of mobile phones and two USB devices belonging to herself and family members were seized. Nothing at all of an incriminatory nature was found by police, either on her person, her vehicle, her home or her workplace.
This operation yielded no drugs, no paraphernalia, no tick-lists, no cash, no wrappings, no scales and certainly nothing indicating support for the INLA or any paramilitary gang. She was interviewed under caution for exactly 11 minutes (13.57 to 14.08). Six minutes of that interview was taken up with the normal introductions, reading of the caution and normal introductory statements from the police and defence solicitor.
Police then commenced the interview by asking “Q. Can you tell us why you are here?…”
Every single question thereafter asked of her was answered in full. Complete assistance was offered and provided by her to police. Not a single shred of incriminatory evidence was referred to. Not a single allegation of any kind was put to her, and at no stage whatsoever, was the INLA or any terrorist or organised crime group (OCG) even mentioned. At the same time other more senior members of this unit were drafting and disseminating their libellous statement to public attacking her character in the most obscene, obsequious and unfair manner.
Even at the point of her release police did not give her the basic warning or courtesy of informing her that this statement had been released to the public concerning her ordeal.
We strongly suspect that this arrest and media publicity operation was ordered following the release on bail of a significantly older half-brother of our client late on Monday after a particularly contentious bail application. In that matter Deputy District Judge O’Hare was extremely critical of inaccurate information provided to him by the PSNI PCTF and bail was granted on strict conditions, notwithstanding the police objections. However to arrest a woman with no criminal record, from her place of work where she is a well respected health care professional wholly unconnected to criminality of any kind, and to then denigrate her good name in the most egregious way, is to be condemned and deplored. We confirm that we are raising this matter with the Police Ombudsman, her local political representatives, Colum Eastwood her local Member of Parliament and will be issuing civil proceedings on her behalf as soon as possible. I confirm that I have spoken directly with Mr Eastwood MP in respect of this matter.”