06 October 2005

Man’s home raided and wrong-name warrant produced

Irelandclick.com

The PSNI this week stormed the house of a Clonard man, kicking in his door and searching his house – with a warrant for someone else.

Gerard Austin, son of veteran republican Joe Austin and Lower Falls Sinn Féin Councillor Janice Austin, was angered when the PSNI aggressively conducted a search of his Lower Clonard Street house and removed a photograph picturing two of his friends and himself.

PSNI officers arrived at Mr Austin’s house in four Land Rovers and two cars, dressed in blue boiler suits, on Sunday morning at 10.50am.

“I had opened the inside door of the porch and was about to open the front door. The cop saw me through the glass but still kicked the door in, breaking the lock and the door panel,” said Mr Austin.

A PSNI officer produced a search warrant claiming that it provided the authority required to search the premises, however it named a person other than Mr Austin.

He informed them that the person named on the warrant did not live there, and that the person was unknown to him.

At this stage a PSNI officer informed Mr Austin that the correct address on the warrant was enough to support a legal search and that they did not need the correct name.

The officers would not tell him if the search was conducted in connection with either a criminal or paramilitary-related incident. The officers proceeded to search his house, as he protested.

Before the PSNI left the house they asked Mr Austin to sign a statement outlining, amongst other things, that they had not searched his house. He refused to sign the statement.

A sinister development to the incident came after the officers had left the house. Mr Austin realised that two photographs that he had left in his living room that morning had been removed. The photographs were of Mr Austin and two friends from County Tyrone, one of whom is very anxious about this development.

Mr Austin believes that the security forces have been involved in collusion in the past and is suspicious of the PSNI’s motives for taking the photographs.

“I have concerns over the removal of the photographs because I don’t know whose hands they are going to fall into.

“I have been a victim in the past of loyalist attacks. In 1992 I was in my parents’ house when the UDA carried out a bomb attack, and that was only weeks after an RUC raid,” said Mr Austin.

“Nothing has changed since then except for the name. It is the same force.”

A PSNI spokesperson said, “A number of searches were carried out in relation to the passing of counterfeit notes in a shop in Dundonald on October 1. On information received, police went to an address at Lower Clonard Street to carry out a search on Sunday morning, however the search was not completed.”

Journalist:: Damien McCarney

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