Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Police ‘refused to chase attackers into a no-go area’

The PSNI has refuted allegations that there are ‘no-go’ areas for officers in Belfast.

It comes after the mother of a 13-year-old girl claimed police refused to go into the nationalist Short Strand area of east Belfast to pursue three teenagers alleged to have assaulted her daughter.

Sophie Patton from Dundonald had been making her way to the cinema at the Odyssey when she was targeted.

The teen, who is unfamiliar with the area, had got off a bus at the wrong stop and was set upon after asking three boys for directions. She was pushed to the ground, punched in the face and an attempt was made to steal her mobile phone.

“It was very frightening,” Sophie told the Belfast Telegraph.

“We were just walking past the gates at the Short Strand and these three guys came out shouting at us.

“They noticed I had a Blackberry and they were wanting my messenger number. Then the next thing, this guy appeared out of nowhere and jumped on me.

“He started hitting me and tried to pull me into the Short Strand.

“When my friends realised what was happening, they tried to come back and help me and he ran off.

“I have bruising on my face,” Sophie added.

Her mother, Joanne, who arrived at the scene minutes after the alleged attack, has expressed outrage that a mobile police unit which was parked around the corner on Bryson Street refused to take action.

“It makes me so angry to think that you just cannot count on the police,” she said.

“I practically did their job for them — I had gone into the Short Strand, identified the three guys with my daughter and was prepared to go in with the police again to get them. But the policeman told me that they couldn’t go in because they get bricked and stoned every night and then they run down alleyways.

“I find it absolutely unbelievable that the police could not drive round the corner to pick these guys up.”

East Belfast Ulster Unionist MLA Michael Copeland said he was not surprised by the PSNI response.

“This sort of incident is happening all too frequently,” he said.

“There is a growing perception among some people that the Short Strand is a ‘no-go’ area.”

In a statement, a PSNI spokesman said: “There are no ‘no-go’ areas for police. The Short Strand has been patrolled by officers on bicycles.

“Police have been in contact with the injured party and her mother to provide an update of the investigative steps that are being taken in relation to the incident. This was a deplorable attack, which has been condemned by the wider community.”

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