Published Date: 07.11.2006
More than half the house searches carried out by the police recently have resulted in a 'positive find', according to research which has been published by the Police Ombudsman's Office.
The report 'Police Searches of Domestic Residences' looked at the sometimes contentious issue of police searches of homes and has made a series of recommendations for improvement, most of which have been accepted by the PSNI.
Researchers conducted focus groups and interviews across Northern Ireland, which included people who have had their homes searched by police.
They also looked at almost 2800 police searches- 12% of which were under Terrorism legislation - in each of the District Command Unit across Northern Ireland between March 2003 and February 2006.
The report reveals that 48% of those searches were aimed at finding evidence, 23% were searches for drugs and in 15% of cases officers were looking for stolen property.
Of all those searches, 62 % resulted in what police described as 'a positive find'.
Most searches (77%) took place between the hours of 9am and 9pm, 8% took place after 9pm but before midnight; 2% between midnight and 3am, 2% between 3am and 6 am and 11% between 6am and 9am.
There were some local variations in the timings of the searches: in Fermanagh, for example, 22% of the searches took place between nine o'clock at night and midnight compared to 14% occurring at that time in North Down.
The Report recorded that 21% of the searches examined involved police forcing an entry into the homes. Carrickfergus had the highest rate of 'forced entries' (33% of all such entries) while West Belfast had the lowest (9% of all such entries.)
In all the searches sampled, damage was caused to property in 22% of cases. Of property searches in East Belfast, 43% recorded damage to property, compared to 11% in West Belfast.
Overall, the average number of officers present during a house search was six. In 81% of the searches people were at home when the police arrived. In 17% of cases police arrested an individual.
In 14 cases police had searched the wrong address.
The research report includes an analysis of complaints made to the Police Ombudsman in relation to property searches. It reports that between opening in November 2000 and December 2005 the Office received 567 such complaints.
The greatest number of these complaints arose from Belfast North DCU area, although Down DCU had most complaints per head of population.
Most of these complaints involved allegations of failure in duty. The most common allegations were of unnecessary damage or heavy handedness by officers, that no warrant was produced or that the warrant contained incorrect details.
Police Ombudsman Information Office.
Tel. 028 9082 8746.