Police handcuff black boy worshipping at church because he ‘looked suspicious’

‘What would you expect a young boy to be doing inside a church on a Sunday morning’

Chiara Giordano
Thursday 25 July 2019 13:28
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Vanylson Silva, 14, outside St Paul's Church, in Worcester, with his mother Vanessa Santos. Vanylson was arrested by police officers as he entered the church on Sunday, 21 July 2019.
Vanylson Silva, 14, outside St Paul's Church, in Worcester, with his mother Vanessa Santos. Vanylson was arrested by police officers as he entered the church on Sunday, 21 July 2019.

A police force has become embroiled in a race row after officers handcuffed a teenage church volunteer because he looked “suspicious”.

Vanylson Silva, 14, had cycled to St Paul’s Church, in Worcester where he helps out on a weekly basis before and after Sunday services.

As he entered the building, officers who had been following him, grabbed his arm and handcuffed him.

Vanylson's mother Vanessa Santos said it was only when church-goers explained he was a volunteer, that he was released.

The officers offered no explanation or apology, she said.

Ms Santos believes her son, who is black Portuguese, was targeted for no other reason than the colour of his skin - a claimed denied by West Mercia Police.

“The church workers told the police he was a volunteer. They uncuffed him and left, without even an apology," she said.

"I just think it is harsh the way they dealt with it. There was no reason for him to be cuffed at 14 years old. What would you expect a young boy to be doing inside a church on a Sunday morning.

Vanylson Silva, 14, outside St Paul's Church, in Worcester, where he was arrested by police officers as he entered the church on Sunday, 21 July 2019.

“I prepare my son and tell him that with our skin colour, unfortunately we are labelled. I tell him that people will react in different ways and some people will be nice to him, but others will not be so nice.”

Ms Santos said her son was left “embarrassed and distressed” by the incident.

She said: “He’s a normal boy, he plays football five days a week, once a week he rides his bike with his friends. But he is not out on the streets, he knows to keep away from boys that smoke and drink.”

West Mercia Police said officers stopped the boy because there had been reports of drug dealing in the area.

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Inspector David Troth said: “Police were patrolling on St Paul’s Street in Worcester on Sunday morning when they saw a member of the public acting suspiciously.

“Officers approached the individual to begin a stop and search due to both their behaviour and concerns about drug dealing in the local area.

“Shortly afterwards, officers were made aware the individual had legitimate reason for being in the area and determined that no offences had taken place and grounds to continue with any subsequent search no longer existed. As such, the search was not conducted.”

SWNS contributed to this report.

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