Northern Ireland

Council reviews staff protection after 'hate campaign'

Intimidation of Belfast City Council staff during a campaign to save a 'pit-bull type' dog has led to the council reviewing procedures to protect staff from abuse.

The dog was seized in May 2010, and a court eventually ruled that it should be destroyed.

A final hearing is due on 24 May.

In response to what the council described as an online 'hate campaign' against staff, new policies protecting staff from abuse have been drawn up.

In particular, the new policy updates what staff should do if they are abused on social media sites.

The council alleges that some campaigners "inundated the council's social networking sites and embarked on an online hate campaign against individual members of staff," during the campaign to save the dog.

The new policy provides guidance about what the council will do if staff suffer online abuse.

"In appropriate cases the council may contact site providers to have material removed and may refer the matter to the police for investigation," it states.

The council says that the incidents of abuse and intimidation staff suffered "have been referred to and are being investigated by the Attorney General" in Northern Ireland.

The new proposals are expected to be approved by the council's Strategic Policy and Resources Committee on Friday.

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