01 May 2006

Sectarian tirade is probed by police

Belfast Telegraph

College staff member referred to PPS over incident at airport

By Brendan McDaid
01 May 2006

A Foyle and Derry College staff member, who allegedly joined in a sectarian tirade directed at a woman, has been referred to the Public Prosecution Service, it has been confirmed.

Speaking at the April meeting of the District Policing Partnership, Foyle District Commander Richard Russell confirmed that the incident, alleged to have occurred at the City of Derry Airport in December 16, 2005, was being probed.

The alleged victim voiced complaints about the police investigation.

Chief Superintendent Russell told the Catholic woman, who attended last week's meeting in person with her husband, that if the people responsible for the alleged abuse are found by the PPS to have no case to answer, there will be other avenues of seeking redress, including securing a caution.

The Waterside woman alleged that she was abused after intervening in an incident at the airport.

She has since lodged a complaint with police and the school that she had been branded "probably Sinn Fein/IRA, Creggan scum" and "SDLP scum" by another person during the incident, claiming a bid was made to get her to identify her child after she said she recognised one of a group of people as being from the school where her child was a pupil.

Independent DPP board member Marie Brown suggested slapping an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) on the person if guilty.

Mr Russell, however, said that this was unlikely to be appropriate. He said: "Anti-Social Behaviour Orders are meant for recurring patterns of behaviour. ASBOs are about trying to break up a pattern of behaviour rather than as a means of dealing with one particular incident.

"There are, however, also all sorts of non-molestation orders and cautions and other sanctions that may apply in certain cases, if there is a degree of guilt decided upon."

The woman told of her horror at the alleged attack by a staff member from what she called a "multi-denominational grammar school" and asked whether this constituted a hate crime.

She added: "As a victim I was left very traumatised by the events that took place.

"I went and filed a report but was told by the police officer that this wasn't a police topic and was a matter for the school.

"I had to push the police officer to take a second look at my statement."

The woman said it took four months to get police to move her case forward.

"We are talking here today about a liaison officer for victims. At no time as a victim have I ever been approached by police," she added.

Referring the woman to Robin Young, newly appointed liaison officer for Foyle, Mr Russell responded: "I am not permitted by law to talk about your particular incident, as much as I would like to.

"Let's talk generally about that sort of an incident. In my view, sectarian abuse of any kind is a hate crime."

He added: "It is a good point you make. Very often it takes some time for the severity of these cases to sink in to us.

"In that particular case, once the circumstances became known, it was treated very seriously."

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