Police slam shooting of boy (16) in west Belfast as 'child abuse'
Police said the shooting of a 16-year-old teenager in west Belfast was "child abuse".
Police described the Forest Street attack in the Beechmount area, which happened just before 9pm on Thursday, was a "punishment-style shooting".
The young man was rushed by ambulance to the nearby Royal Victoria Hospital where his condition was described as stable.
The shooting follows a similar gun attack on Wednesday in the Falls Road area that left another young man in hospital.
Belfast Policing Commander Chief Superintendent Chris Noble said: “Last night saw an attack on a 16-year-old boy. Any civilised society would see that for what it is – child abuse. It is most definitely not policing or community safety activity."
Mr Noble said in recent weeks people have resorted to "child abuse, maiming people and acting as self-appointed judges, juries and executioners" and have urged people with any information to come forward so they can ensure prosecutions.
Mr Noble continued: "I want to condemn what has happened in the strongest terms. It is very early to speculate in terms of the people involved, but at the very least they are predatory criminals.
"It is also too early to say if the number of recent shootings in west Belfast are linked but clearly there is an active line of inquiry around the involvement of violent dissident republicans. I would not want to speculate on exactly why individuals were targeted but there is never any justification for this violent, abusive behaviour."
Mr Noble stressed that the only policing authority in west Belfast was the PSNI.
"Policing only works when delivered with the community and policing in west Belfast has seen real progress over the last five years in relation to domestic burglary and vehicle crime in particular," he said.
"Unlike others who in recent weeks have resorted to child abuse, maiming people and acting as self-appointed judges, juries and executioners, we work in partnership with the community to resolve issues of concern while at the same time being held robustly to account by the local PCSP and the Policing Board.
"Over the last nine months police have delivered on the West Belfast Local Policing Plan, set by elected and independent representatives, which has seen a significant reduction in those issues which matter to the community; anti-social behaviour, burglary, death driving and crimes against the elderly. "
The PSNI have appealed for anyone with information to come forward to enable proseuctions.
"The dogs in the street may well know who is responsible," added the senior officer, "but what I need as the local police commander is for people to come forward and give me any information, however apparently irrelevant that our specialist detectives can use to secure a conviction. Information is key in these crimes where victims are often traumatised and people emerge from and run back into the shadows.
“Policing has a clear strategy for keeping people safe in weest Belfast and fundamentally it is about working with communities to solve challenges and being responsive and accountable to them. A strategy of maiming and abusing local young people and intimidating communities by violent, criminal, unelected and unaccountable individuals is not a strategy.
“I would encourage anyone that has any information regarding the recent shooting incidents or any criminal activity in the west Belfast area to contact police immediately on 101.
"You can of course also pass this information to a member of the clergy or a local elected community representative who can then pass it on to police so that these matters can be fully investigated and the criminals responsible can be brought to justice.”