Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Church vandals won't be charged

An Ulster minister who battled with police to investigate a group of youths allegedly involved in anti-social behaviour says he feels "bitterly let down" after it emerged no one will be prosecuted.

Worshippers at St Donard's Church in east Belfast had faced ongoing problems with yobbish behaviour.

The Bloomfield church had previously been attacked with fireworks during a service and elderly residents have been harassed by youths.

During one incident, the Rev Charles McCartney, rector of St Donard's, photographed youths on the church roof.

However, he was "verbally cautioned" by the PSNI for taking photographs of the children.

The local chief inspector later apologised to Mr McCartney.

But after police examined the photographs and passed the file onto the Public Prosecution Service a letter was sent to Mr McCartney confirming no prosecution would occur.

" I got a letter from the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) on Saturday simply saying they have decided not to prosecute," he said.

" They say the evidence and the information reported hasn't been enough to prosecute."

Mr McCartney said the congregation feel " incredibly let down".

A spokesman for the PPS confirmed that the decision was taken not to prosecute and this was "due to insufficient evidence to provide reasonable prospect of a conviction".

Mr McCartney added: "The police did finally support us and have worked hard in putting extra manpower in the area.

"Now I feel the PPS has stabbed the police in the back, me in the back and the church," he said.

Mr McCartney said the decision not to prosecute is sending the wrong message to anti-social youths.

"We can't get these boys into the court, even for a slap on the wrists.

"The Christian faith is focused on forgiveness.

"But we would feel that the law has to make an impression on these wee boys before we do the forgiveness bit.

"It sends out a very negative message and it opens the gates for the young lads in the area who embark on anti-social behaviour to come into our property and wreck it again.

"And it says to me there is no point in risking my neck to try and catch them."

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