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Warning for Holylands revellers as woman in 20s sexually assaulted

Man released in police investigation into attack

By Victoria Leonard

Young people planning to visit the Holylands area of Belfast on St Patrick's Day have been warned to be careful after a serious sexual assault in the University Street area.

Detectives from the PSNI's rape crime unit appealed for information following the attack on a woman in her 20s.

It happened in the doorway of commercial premises at around 12.40am on Tuesday March 7.

A 25-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of rape. He was later released pending further investigation.

Green Party MLA Clare Bailey, who opened her constituency office in University Street last November, described the attack as "horrific."

Before her election, Ms Bailey worked with Nexus NI, which offers counselling and support to survivors of sexual abuse.

"I'm always shocked when I hear about incidents like this," she said. "But I know that this type of thing does happen in this area. I would like to put out a warning to everyone in the area to look after themselves and keep themselves safe.

"A lot of people come to the Holylands area on St Patrick's' Day and we often look at the students and people who descend on the area and sometimes don't look at the impact of what they are getting into. Crimes such as sexual assault and burglaries occur frequently in that area.

"This is a timely reminder to people to look after themselves. This area has a high crime rate and anyone who is thinking of coming into the area to party should think about that."

Ms Bailey said she felt that the emphasis on students' bad behaviour could lead to more serious crimes in the area being overshadowed.

"Drunkenness distracts from incidents such as serious sexual assaults," she added.

"There are a lot of students and a transient community here - there's a large volume of people passing through.

"We must ensure our streets are safe, and a joined-up approach must be taken, particularly in south Belfast, where a number of incidents have taken place over recent years."

Ms Bailey also called on Belfast City Council to do more to improve security in the Holylands area through the installation of CCTV cameras.

"There used to be two CCTV cameras in the Holylands area, but the council took them down as they said they weren't effective in catching people, and they were never replaced," she said.

"I would be calling for the cameras to be re-installed."

A spokeswoman for Belfast City Council said that in January 2016 it agreed to "the closure of the CCTV, but with the support of ongoing mobile CCTV".

"This was due to costs associated with maintaining and upgrading the system with the support of partners involved in the launch of the pilot scheme," she added.

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