Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: We all have a right to pursue justice

Anyone who witnessed the scenes of savagery and wanton destruction perpetrated by rioters in Ardoyne last summer would have no doubts that those responsible should be apprehended and brought to justice.

The same applied to those who were involved in serious disturbances in Rathcoole and Londonderry on other occasions. Ideally the police would catch the rioters in the commission of their crimes but that is not always possible without putting officers in even greater jeopardy or inflaming an already tense situation.

One tactic used very successfully is to film those engaged in disturbances and identify and arrest them later. It is a tactic used also by the Metropolitan Police in London during recent tuition fees protests. If police cannot identify the rioters themselves then they publish the images and ask for the public's assistance. And, even in nationalist areas of Northern Ireland, the public has been co-operating and helping to bring law-breakers to justice.

On the face of it this would appear to be the police and public working in harmony towards a common end, the enforcement of law and order. But the human rights committee of the Policing Board - which has oversight of the PSNI - believes the publication of images of juveniles could breach their human rights, put them at risk of punishment attacks by paramilitaries or identify them as trouble- makers before any court has reached a decision.

We need to be careful that the issue of human rights does not overwhelm, or at least impede, the pursuit of justice. Police have a difficult task, particularly in Northern Ireland, in keeping the peace and should not have any of the weapons they need to perform that task taken away from them.

Publication of juveniles' photographs should be a tactic of last resort, but it should be allowed so that those guilty of offences can be arrested and punished appropriately.

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