Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

PSNI chief on Twelfth riots: 'Animalistic' attacks on police were attempted murder

Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr displays officers' helmets and shields damaged in Twelfth riots

PSNI assistant chief constable Will Kerr holding a policeman's riot helmet with the markings of an Orangeman ceremonial sword on the top and a piece of metal fencing used to attack police officers. Photo by Pacemaker.
PSNI assistant chief constable Will Kerr holding a policeman's riot helmet with the markings of an Orangeman ceremonial sword on the top and a piece of metal fencing used to attack police officers. Photo by Pacemaker.
PSNI assistant chief constable Will Kerr holding a policeman's riot helmet with the markings of an Orangeman ceremonial sword on the top and a piece of metal fencing used to attack police officers. Photo by Pacemaker.

Police have warned rioters that there is no hiding place, following weekend violence described by a senior officer as “almost animalistic”.

Meanwhile, the force warned that it will be reviewing evidence of those who used inflammatory language ahead of a contentious Twelfth parade in north Belfast.

More than 40 officers have been injured in three nights of violence in north Belfast’s Woodvale Road area.

On Monday police displayed officers’ helmets and shields which had been smashed by missiles.

They included a reinforced helmet, which bore a large dent from the impact of being struck by a ceremonial sword.

Officers have been treated for broken bones, head and neck injuries and heat exhaustion, after being attacked with ceremonial swords, fireworks, masonry, ball bearings, petrol bombs and steel spikes ripped from fences in north Belfast.

“Some of these attacks can't be seen as anything other than attempted murder,” said Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr.

Hundreds more mutual aid officers will be deployed to Belfast from UK forces in the coming days - in an operation which has already cost multiple millions of pounds, dwarfing the cost of policing the flag protests and last year’s parading season.

Mr Kerr also challenged the Orange Order to hand over the names of members witnessed attacking police lines in Belfast over the Twelfth.

Footage shows some people wearing Orange sashes and regalia hurling insults and attacking police lines with sticks and missiles.

He described the behaviour of rioters, who ranged from teenagers to men in their fifties, as “visceral”.

“If you watch the footage of some of the people attacking those police lines on Friday, particularly at the Woodvale Road, the behaviour was almost animalistic,” he said. “It was incredibly dangerous.”

The PSNI will now take advice from the Public Prosecution Service over inflammatory statements issued ahead of contentious Twelfth parades, he confirmed.

Asked if encouraging people to ignore a decision of the Parades Commission amounted to inflammatory language, when it is said time and again, Mr Kerr responded: “That’s something we will sit down and look at very carefully over the next few days and take advice from our colleagues at the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

“If you stand in breach of a Parades Commission determination and you stand and block roads, that is illegal behaviour. It's illegal behaviour that will come with a consequence over the next few days and weeks."

The force expects to make hundreds more arrests over the coming weeks, he added.

But reiterating the words of the Chief Constable Matt Baggott, he issued this message: "We hope that there's a lesson out of this for everybody involved, that the next time it comes up to parades people are not calling for mass civil disobedience. It leads to the circumstances where violence is more likely.

“If you bring people out on to the streets, you need to exercise care and restraint in terms of your language. You need to have a plan and you need to exercise firm control on the streets,” he said.

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