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Support is urged for police forced to move home due to threats

By Victoria Leonard

The chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) has called for better support for officers who have to move addesses due to terrorist threats after it emerged that 16 are forced to either move home or have special security measures installed at their properties every year.

The figure was revealed yesterday by PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris, who said that "one or two officers" per month had to move for safety reasons.

"Over the year and looking across the last five years, we could expect in and around 20 officers per annum to have to move home because of threats, predominantly dissident but also then from loyalist paramilitaries as well," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show.

"(It's a ) huge upheaval, and also then that reverberates among their work colleagues and those that they know well among the organisation.

"But it has a big impact on family as well, because in effect they are uprooted from schools, friends and from close family."

The PSNI told the Belfast Telegraph that during 2016 nine officers moved home due to threats, and three so far in 2017.

It is understood that, on average, nine officers have been admitted onto the PSNI home security aid scheme per annum since 2010, and the average number of officers affected annually is 16.

During the broadcast it also emerged that almost 40,000 sickness days were taken by officers last year due to mental health problems - a rise of almost 40% between 2012 and 2016.

PFNI chairman Mark Lindsay said that the situation was "very worrying" and called for new measures to support officers forced from their homes.

"Officers have to move away from the area where they grew up and have their support network," he said. "The children have to move school, the husband or wife has to leave their job, and they can be financially penalised."

Mr Lindsay also raised concerns about officers being under more stress due to being allowed fewer days off and working more overtime. He said this will get worse due to budget cuts.

The PSNI responded: "As an emergency service, PSNI officers routinely go the extra mile by working extended shifts and overtime, often on rest days.

"The service is extremely grateful for the commitment and loyalty shown by our staff. Due to budget reductions, funding for overtime is also reducing, and has done over the last number of years."

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