Northern Ireland

PSNI apologises to pensioners for drugs raid on 'wrong house'

The police have apologised for battering down the front door of a house belonging to two 75-year-old pensioners during a search for drugs.

The officers broke into the property in Lurgan at about 10:00 BST on Thursday.

The couple's son, who did not want to be named, told BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show that his elderly mother had been "traumatised" by the incident.

He said the officers were instructed to search a house a short distance away but had read the address incorrectly.

'Stormed'

The couple were not in the house at the time, but the man said his father was in his back garden when he heard "a terrible racket" and thought there had been a car crash at the front of his house.

When he went to investigate, he found that his front door had been battered down by up to six PSNI officers.

"They had stormed into the house and were in the hallway. The lead police officer then seemingly took a look at my father and, at that stage, I think they realised that they had made a mistake," their son said.

"They had been given the correct information but had read the street address or the street name incorrectly, and the address that they should have been at was about 300 yards away from my parents' house".

'Incompetence'

The man said he was "very annoyed" by the officers actions after they realised they had got the wrong house.

"The fact that it happened beggars belief. That, to me, is not just incompetence, but rather illiteracy, or lack of literacy on the part of the police."

The PSNI later sent a letter of apology and a bunch of flowers to the couple, but their son said he was not interested in apologies and wanted an explanation.

"My parents have lived in that house since it was built, so obviously the police do not employ any intelligence to what they are doing. Furthermore, my parents' house number and street name is on a plaque at the side of the front door.

"So not only did they not read the address as they drove into the street, they didn't read the address which is on a plaque beside the front door."

He explained that his mother had been attending a medical appointment at the time of the break in, but was "distraught" when she got home and saw the damage.

He said she has not slept properly since the incident and both his parents had felt "violated".

In a statement, the PSNI said a senior officer has already spoken with the family personally and written a letter of apology.

'Sincere'

"We acknowledge our mistake in this instance and have offered to confirm this with the surrounding neighbours although this offer was rejected.

"We can only again reiterate our sincere apologies to the family and assure them that they are in no way a subject of any investigation."

The PSNI also confirmed that if officers enter a house unlawfully, they pay for any damages caused.

"In any case, we will not leave premises unsecured. If that means contacting the Housing Executive or a private contractor we will do that," the statement added.

In August, the PSNI launched Operation Torus, targeting street level drug dealing across Northern Ireland.

It has been running for less than a month, but already there have been more than 1,100 searches, 198 arrests, and £287,000 worth of drug seizures.

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