Northern Ireland

PSNI to tackle 'punishment' attacks

Protest against RAAD
Image caption A number of public protests against punishment attacks have been held in Londonderry

The PSNI has unveiled details on a campaign to tackle paramilitary-style attacks, which currently have a 4% clearance rate.

The police said they intend to restore and enhance community confidence.

Forty people have been shot in Derry and five in Strabane in the past five years.

Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris explained how the initiative would work.

He said individuals who are involved in violence will have many aspects of their lives heavily scrutinised.

"There are consequences for individuals who perpetrate such extreme violence.

"This is the most serious form of criminality. Therefore, you cannot be in a position of trust in our society.

"We have licensing, regulations in terms of people who have a trusted place in our society. For example taxi drivers, door supervisors and people who work with youth groups.

"It is a legitimate police tactic to focus on these individuals. We can form an opinion based on information we have on an individual's suitability.

"People who engage in such violence cannot be in any sort of position of trust.

"This is a tried and tested method. We have looked across to England and Wales and tactics that are applied there. Focusing in on their lifestyle, employment and livelihood and bringing pressure to bear. It is a process that will involve the courts.

"It is completely wrong that someone should be in a position of trust when they are involved in such vicious violence.

Youth appeal

"What we're announcing today is the Facebook site that we have opened up already.

"This will ask people for their assistance and will appeal to young people.

"Also we have already reviewed all the recent investigations into paramilitary shootings and assaults", he said.

Policing Board member and MLA Conall McDevitt said he expected determined action to address punishment attacks.

"One of the things police will try to do is to work hard to strengthen their relationship with young people in marginalised communities.

"They also need to prove to everyone, the policing board and people on the ground, that when they say they're going to do something they do it," she said.

Donna Smith, whose son Andrew Allen, was murdered by the vigilante group, Republican Action Against Drugs, said she doubts the PSNI's ability to address the problem.

"I hope it works but I am not sure it will or not.

"I would like to hope that it will come together, that they can go into communities.

"It is completely out of control.

"I would like Andrew's murderers caught," she said.

The most senior police officer in the north west admitted in May his officers were struggling to secure convictions against the republican vigilante group RAAD.

Chief Superintendent Steve Martin insisted the public had a vital role to play in helping the police.

"I am grossly disappointed in our detection rate against RAAD," he said.

"Trust us and tell these people to stop doing what they are doing."

Chief Superintendent Martin said the organisation was a small group made up of former paramilitaries who intimidated people.

Five men were shot and wounded in Strabane since 2010, while another three were shot in Donegal including Derry man Andrew Allen who was murdered in Buncrana in February.

Vigilante group Republican Action Against Drugs claimed responsibility.

The number is significantly lower than estimates quoted in recent media reports which suggested that 85 men have been shot and wounded in the past three years.

John McPoland from the Northern Ireland Ambulance service said he had thought the days of such attacks had been left behind.

"A lot of the shootings tend to be in around the knee cap and more recently shotguns have been used to inflict pain and maim the victims.

"There has been great a reduction in these types of attacks in comparison to 20 years ago," said Mr McPoland.

BBC Radio Foyle requested the figures following a report in the Guardian newspaper claiming that "at least 85 men have been shot over the past three years in "punishment" attacks by Republican Action Against Drugs."

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