A mother whose 15-year-old black son was forcibly restrained by two ‘rent-a-cop’ rangers in Superdrug has said she finds it ‘impossible to believe’ that ‘race had nothing to do with it’.
Kirsty Buchanan, who is a former Number 10 aide, called for a probe into the use of private security guards after her son was pushed to the floor by two ‘street rangers’ last week.
After they followed him into the store, Kirsty’s son was detained by the two men on the floor of the shop in Chichester, West Sussex, while he was ‘shopping for shampoo’.
Footage released by Kirsty on Twitter showed the two rangers holding the teenager on the ground while they handcuffed him before the arrival of police.
While police said in a statement this week that they arrested two teenage boys, aged 15 and 16, Kirsty says her son did not shoplift or assault a shop worker, nor was arrested for doing so.
The boy’s mother Kirsty Buchanan was once political editor at the Sunday Express and is a former adviser to Theresa May and Liz Truss. She has now called for a probe into the use of private security guards
She also questioned assurances from Sussex Police that the incident was not to do with the boy’s race in a piece in The Times today.
Kirsty, who is white, said: ‘I find it impossible to believe that if I had gone into Superdrug to buy some Cantu that I would have been followed by these rangers, who are increasingly being hired to police our high streets — which raises serious questions for all of us.’
‘I doubt I would have been slammed to the floor and handcuffed for simply taking the mickey out of their ridiculous power-trip behaviour, and I feel fairly certain that my insistence that I had been assaulted, corroborated by eyewitnesses at the scene, would have carried weight with the attending police officers.’
The mother described the ordeal her son went through as ‘kafkaesque’ and her son says his arm was grabbed before he was slammed to the floor.
Kirsty said that while she wouldn’t presume to know what it is like to be black and wanted to avoid putting her family in the spotlight, she felt she had no choice but to speak up.
‘Every mother’s strongest instinct is to protect their child but over the years I have grown to understand there is simply no way to shield my children from the most corrosive effects of racism.
‘I am astonished and appalled by the frequency with which they are subjected to disgusting racist abuse online and face to face. And I worry about how cynical they have become about my well-meaning but utterly futile attempts to secure justice for them.’
The boy was forcibly detained by two men on the floor of the shop in Chichester, West Sussex
Posting the video to Twitter earlier this week, Kirsty said: ‘This is my 15-year-old black son who was followed while he shopped for shampoo by two council workers called rangers. He was sat on and handcuffed by them. When Sussex Police arrived, guess who they arrested?’
She has since said: ‘There needs to be a thorough review of the use of these security guards on our streets because they are on our streets and are completely unregulated.
‘What is the process of due diligence by which they are hired? What is the training procedure? What is their remit?’ she said, according to The Times.
After the incident, Sussex Police released a statement which said officers were called to the shop shortly after 3.30pm to reports of an altercation in Superdrug involving a group of teenagers and a member of retail staff.
The force confirmed a 15-year-old boy from Worthing was arrested yesterday on suspicion of assault while a boy aged 16 from Chichester was arrested on suspicion of assault, possession of cannabis, and using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
Both boys have since been released on bail.
It added in a statement: ‘On arrival, officers discovered a 15-year-old boy from Worthing had been detained in handcuffs by privately employed civilian security staff.’
The force also said that the act of handcuffing an individual by civilians must be justified, adding: ‘There is no law in the UK that prevents civilians carrying handcuffs.
A police vehicle outside Superdrug in Chichester following the incident on Wednesday
‘Anyone who does carry handcuffs should be aware that their use could constitute a crime, unless they can show that using them was reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.
‘A full and thorough investigation is ongoing to establish the exact circumstances of what happened; this includes reviewing footage and taking witness statements.
‘Sussex Police has been in contact with the 15-year-old’s mother and contact will be maintained as the investigation continues.
‘Anyone who witnessed the incident, the events leading up to it or has any relevant footage is asked to contact police online or via 101, quoting Operation Ashridge.’
The two men are ‘rangers’ for the Chichester Business Improvement District, which works in partnership with the city council.
The BID said they act as ‘the eyes and ears on the street and a reassuring presence for those in the front line of petty crime’.
The BID describes itself a business-led initiative which is ‘independent from local authorities and other statutory agencies and delivers projects over and above the baseline services provided by them’.
Ms Buchanan urged the BID to contact her about the ‘behaviour’ of the rangers, telling it on Twitter: ‘You surely cannot condone the way they have treated my son?’
She has since questioned the role of private security guards.
Ms Buchanan claimed to the Daily Mirror that the rangers were aggressive towards her son and his friends, saying: ‘What I have been told is the ranger pushed him and my son pushed back… they put plastic handcuffs on him – the police then arrived and arrested my son.’
Ms Buchanan was once political editor at the Sunday Express and was also an adviser to Theresa May from 2017 to 2019 when she was prime minister and an adviser to Liz Truss when she was justice secretary in 2016 and 2017.
She said she did not hear from her son for an hour and a half while he was being held at Worthing Police Station.
Ms Buchanan also said that her son had regularly experienced racist incidents and has been stopped and searched many times.
The men involved were ‘rangers’ for the Chichester Business Improvement District in the city
She tweeted on Wednesday night: ‘So @sussex_police have a policy of not holding minors. My son is still in custody and has yet to be interviewed.
‘I have been told by a senior officer Superdrug camera footage has not been recovered by police yet. Why on earth not?’
She later revealed that her son – who is due to sit exams in a few weeks’ time – was let out of police custody at 1.15am in the morning before heading home.
Superdrug claimed female staff were assaulted and the store had to be shut due to damage.
In an updated statement to MailOnline, Superdrug said on Friday: ‘The Chichester BID rangers are not employed by Superdrug.
‘We cannot comment on the actions of individuals not trained or employed by Superdrug. But we do have a zero-tolerance stance to violence and aggression and actively encourage civility and kindness in our stores.
‘We cannot provide any further commentary at this stage, as this is a Police matter, and we are offering our full assistance to Sussex Police.’
A Chichester District Council spokesman said on Wednesday: ‘We have been made aware of an incident that took place in Chichester city today and we want to clarify that no Chichester District Council staff were involved.’
Chichester BID is an organisation set up in 2012 and funded by local, business-rate payers to ‘invest in local improvements’, according to its website.
A spokesman said this week: ‘Chichester BID is aware of an incident that occurred on March 22 at the Superdrug store on East Street, involving a group of young people and two rangers.
‘Together with Blayde Security, who provide our security services, we are cooperating fully with Sussex Police, who are investigating the matter. We are taking this very seriously.
‘We want to reassure traders, residents and visitors to Chichester city centre that we are committed to providing a safe and secure environment for all.’
Sussex Police, Chichester BID and Superdrug have all been contacted for updated statements by MailOnline.
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