Belfast Telegraph

Courts should 'throw book' at attacker, urges federation

Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

The chair of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland (PFNI) hopes the courts "throw the book" at the person who attacked a PSNI officer during violent scenes at a bonfire site in the New Lodge area of Belfast.

In one incident a metal fence was thrown at police lines, while in another an officer appeared to collapse after being struck on the head by an object at close range.

The PSNI was forced to withdraw from the scene of the north Belfast bonfire at Queen's Parade at 3pm after rioting began during the morning. After several attempts to talk bonfire builders down from the top of the wooden pyre, the PSNI pulled out of the operation over fears that bystanders could be hurt.

Three police officers were injured during the unsuccessful operation, the PSNI's Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said last night.

Police Federation chairman Mark Lindsay condemned yesterday's violent scenes, and said he hopes the people who attacked the PSNI are brought to justice.

"Our thoughts are with that officer and his colleagues who are there trying to restore order," he said.

"Once again, there is no justification whatsoever for attacking (police officers).

"We see the cowardly action of somebody who attacked our officer from behind and this is absolutely disgraceful."

Mr Lindsay said that yesterday's scenes went against the wishes of the majority of people from the New Lodge area who do not want the bonfire or their community being "hijacked by young thugs".

"Officers trying to protect the community and lawful agencies are once again caught in the middle and in the firing line," he continued. "They are being attacked with a range of missiles and iron fencing. Our officers are acting with professionalism and restraint and we would urge those orchestrating these vicious and unacceptable confrontations to pull back before people are seriously injured.

"These are ugly scenes reminiscent of the past and do not need to be repeated as communities work to build a better future.

"They are disgraceful and unacceptable.

"I know local community and political figures are trying to intervene to get order restored, and from our perspective we hope they are successful.

"In the meantime, our officers will continue to do the job they are there to do."

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