Residents living close to hostels that are known to house ex-sex offenders and paedophiles “finally feel they are being heard” after their protest stopped traffic at Shaftesbury Square on Monday evening (February 21).
Over 500 people from the Sandy Row, Village and Donegall Road areas, gathered on the streets to protest “over the number of sex offenders housed in their area”.
The protests were sparked by rumours that a convicted paedophile living in the area was sighted in a local park |approaching children last week.
Kaz McIntyre who organises the campaign group C.H.R.I.S (Children have rights in society) was invited along by residents. She told the Community Telegraph: “The residents organised the protest through Facebook. They have had enough of not being listened to. They feel the hostel should not be here in such a built-up area, so close to parks and schools — it is too much |temptation.
“The second night of planned protests was cancelled as a meeting was arranged for the organisers of the protest to speak to the statutory agencies about the fears the community have — the local police and probationary service were present, along with a number of local councillors and |community representatives.
“We are told a focus group will now be set up consisting of local people and statutory agencies, as a forum to address concerns.
“Our organisation, C.H.R.I.S, campaigns for paedophiles to be named and shamed and to provide information to those who have been sexually abused. This began in the UK, but myself and four other women have set up a Belfast group. Most of us have been victims of child sex abuse and we just can’t stand by while the government do so little to monitor convicted paedophiles.
“We are here to raise awareness to parents and not to encourage vigilante attacks on paedophiles.
“We utterly discourage anything like that and just advocate peaceful methods to protect children from such offenders.”
DUP councillor Ruth Patterson, who was at the protest and subsequent meeting, said: “Placing convicted paedophiles beside public parks and primary schools is like putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank.
“I think this focus group is a way forward, and I hope we can set up a meeting with the Justice Minister about this situation very shortly.”
A spokesperson for the PSNI said: “We take on board the community's concerns and will continue to work with them to find appropriate solutions.”
A spokesperson for the Probation Board added: “We understand the public’s concerns, and we are responding to them.”