The mother of a schoolboy who had his hurling stick and sliotar confiscated by police who deemed it “an offensive weapon” says she is seeking legal advice.
The teenager, a rising star in the sport, had his hurl and ball taken off him by police who kept it at Woodbourne barracks overnight. His mother, who wants to remain anonymous to protect her young son, picked up the items the following day but was shocked when she later received a call from police asking her to bring her son to the station for a “ticking off”.
The angry mother says her 16-year-old son “eats, sleeps and breathes hurling” and is constantly to be seen with hurl and ball in his hand. She says she has no idea why she should have to frogmarch him to the police station for a lecture on why he shouldn’t carry a hurl.
“The night after Thatcher died, my son was at hurling training as normal,” she explained. “When he got home, he told me there was a convoy of cars driving down the Stewartstown Road with flags and that people had gathered at the Blacks Road interface. I sent him out to get his younger brother in case there was any trouble. He came back within 15 minutes with his brother but without his hurley and ball.
“He told me the police had taken them off him, saying the hurley was an offensive weapon.”
The mother says she asked a local community worker to approach the police and explain that her son was just home from training and was looking for his brother rather than causing trouble. The man did so but police still refused to hand over the items.
“I went to Woorbourne the next morning to pick them up,” she said. “I asked why it had been taken off him in the first place. I explained that my son was just home from hurling training and was out looking for his brother and was in his own area and not causing any trouble for anyone. They gave me the stick and ball back but were insisting it’s an offensive weapon. I could’ve stood there arguing with them until I was blue in the face but they were sticking with the offensive weapon line.
“I thought that was the end of it but then I got a call on the Friday from Woodbourne saying they wanted me to take my son down to the station for a ‘ticking-off’ by officers.
“I can’t believe it,” she added. “I’m totally shocked and have spoken to a solicitor about it. It’s bad enough they took it off him in the first place when he was doing absolutely nothing wrong but now they want to reprimand him over it? My son is quiet, he spends all his time training and studying for his GCSEs. He is not a troublemaker yet they want him down at the station for a ‘ticking-off’? It’s an absolute disgrace.”
Antrim GAA Chairman Jim Murray said the PSNI were sending out the wrong message by confiscating the boy’s hurl.
“This is absolutely abhorrent,” he said. “I thought those days were over. It’s dragging us back to the bad old days and our sport is now being politicised. Where does it stop? There are hundreds of people, and I include myself in this, who carry hurls to training every day of the week. I carry my hurl when I bring my two grandkids to training every Saturday morning. It just sends the wrong message out to everyone.”
A spokesman for the PSNI confirmed the items were taken from the teenager.
“Police in West Belfast confiscated a hurling stick and ball from a male youth in the Stewartstown Road area on the evening of Tuesday April 9,” he said. “Large groups of youths were in the interface area at the time and officers were working to ease tensions and prevent possible disorder. The youth was informed he along with his mother could collect the confiscated items the following day from Woodbourne station. Anyone with a complaint about the actions of police can contact the Police Ombudsman.”