Northern Ireland

Belfast hate crimes: Five arrested in past 24 hours say police

PSNI crest Image copyright PSNI
Image caption The PSNI said it treated all hate crimes seriously and encouraged victims to come forward

Five people have been arrested in connection with a number of hate crime incidents across Belfast, police have said.

Four men and a woman were detained after four separate attacks in the city over the past 24 hours.

Two men have since been charged with a number of offences and are expected to appear in court next month.

The PSNI said it was "committed to removing all incidents of hate crime from our streets".

On Tuesday night in north Belfast, a 70-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of making threats to kill and possessing an offensive weapon in the Westland Road area. He has since been charged and will appear in court next month.

In a separate incident in the city centre at about 01:00 BST on Wednesday, a 51-year-old man was arrested after reports that he was being racially abusive to staff at a restaurant in Castle Place. He is also due to appear in court in May.

Police said that at about the same time in south Belfast, a 39-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of common assault at a takeaway restaurant in the Donegall Road area.

'Psychological effect'

Officers said a woman in the restaurant had been racially abused by a group of men and women and had food thrown at her.

The pair have since been released pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

In a third incident on Wednesday, a 22-year-old man was arrested in connection with an attack on a woman on the Lisburn Road.

Police said it was reported that the woman was punched, spat at and verbally abused at about 01:30 BST. The incident is being treated as a sectarian hate crime.

The man has since been released pending a report to the PPS.

PSNI Supt Paula Hillman said: "I understand that hate crime has a psychological and emotional effect on victims and the wider communities.

"We know that over the past few weeks there have been a number of hate crimes across Belfast. However, I would like to reassure the public that the Police Service of Northern Ireland treat all hate crimes seriously and will continue in our efforts to bring people before the courts."