Northern Ireland

Relatives: Throw book at Belfast car-jackers

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Media captionVictims' families have called for greater use of AVT (aggravated vehicle taking) legislation

The families of victims of car crime have called for tougher action to be taken against the perpetrators.

Families Bereaved Through Car Crime (FBTCC) said they had "fought hard" for the introduction of new legislation but it was not being used by the courts.

The group has appealed to judges to "throw the book" at those consistently involved in car crime.

It said victims had been injured and traumatised by "car-jackers" who dragged drivers from their vehicles.

The group, along with the PSNI's auto crime team, are to launch a fresh campaign against car crime.

'Punished'

A spokesman for the group said the crime of aggravated vehicle taking (AVT), which they had campaigned for several years ago, was "not being used by the judiciary and judges".

"They should send a clear message to car-jackers that they can and will be punished when brought before the courts under AVT," the spokesman said.

The campaign was launched at Woodbourne police station in west Belfast on Wednesday, and is aimed at securing the help of community groups and political parties to "combat the scourge of car crime".

"This is about people from our communities maimed and injured and left traumatised after they have been dragged and beaten out of their cars," the spokesman said.

"This is about the ordinary family wanting to know they are safe while driving to and from work, taking their kids to school, or even going shopping and that their children will be safe playing on their own streets.

"So before someone is seriously injured or killed, we call on the PSNI and the community to help stop car crime now and support the groups and agencies trying to end it, and we also appeal to those involved in this death-driving and their families to please help stop it now before they destroy and devastate another family."

'Great partnership'

PSNI Ch Insp Michael White said: "The auto crime team has been instrumental in the significant reduction in car crime in the west Belfast area, which is down by 84% in the last 10 years, and much of this is due to the great partnership work with local groups and agencies including FBTCC.

"The auto crime team have an excellent knowledge of the area and along with their colleagues in response and neighbourhood, they are maintaining the reduction in car crime in west Belfast.

"We are happy to continue our work alongside FBTCC and hope that the positive relationship continues to bring about the results that we all want - to reduce car crime in the area and make the streets of west Belfast a safer place to live."