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No concerns over work of charity Charter NI, say police

Chief Constable George Hamilton: ACC Martin's public commentary on Friday remains an accurate assessment of the PSNI's position

Senior police have said they have no concerns about the work of an East Belfast charity after some of its members were recently linked to paramilitary activity.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin earlier said he believed individuals involved with Charter NI were connected with the outlawed Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and had engaged in recent illegal activity.

First Minister Arlene Foster, Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill and Justice Minister Claire Sugden met PSNI chief constable George Hamilton on Monday.

An Executive Office spokesperson said: "Ministers were assured by the PSNI that it has no concerns about the work of Charter NI. It was also explained that the PSNI would itself continue to work with Charter NI.

"We have made clear that where there is any evidence of criminal activity, police should investigate thoroughly and bring those responsible before the courts. Courts and jail are the only place for anyone involved in paramilitarism.

"We have also emphasised that any individuals associated with Charter NI or any community enterprise must make a clear choice between paramilitarism and legitimate community work. There can be no acceptance of or ambivalence towards illegal activity."

Calls have been made to stop funding the charity after police linked some of its members to recent paramilitary activity.

The chief constable said the meeting was useful and constructive.

"It allowed myself and DCC Drew Harris to reinforce the position made clear by ACC Martin last Friday about individuals connected to Charter NI.

"ACC Martin's public commentary on Friday remains an accurate assessment of the PSNI's position.

"At an operational and community level Charter NI do some very meaningful and positive work. However, it remains our view that an individual or individuals connected to that organisation continue to be associated with paramilitarism."

Mr Hamilton concluded: "On the ground and at a local level across many parts of Northern Ireland, the PSNI will continue to work with community groups who have a positive contribution to make.

"However, where we have evidence that individuals are involved in criminality we will investigate, seek to gather evidence and where appropriate report to the PPS."

Commenting on this afternoon's meeting Chief Constable George Hamilton said: "Today's meeting was useful and constructive. It allowed myself and DCC Drew Harris to reinforce the position made clear by ACC Martin last Friday about individuals connected to Charter NI.

"ACC Martin's public commentary on Friday remains an accurate assessment of the PSNI's position. At an operational and community level Charter NI do some very meaningful and positive work. However, it remains our view that an individual or individuals connected to that organisation continue to be associated with paramilitarism."

Mr Hamilton added: "On the ground and at a local level across many parts of Northern Ireland, the PSNI will continue to work with community groups who have a positive contribution to make. However, where we have evidence that individuals are involved in criminality we will investigate, seek to gather evidence and where appropriate report to the PPS."

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