Belfast Telegraph

Decline in paramilitary beatings in Belfast is welcomed

By Michael McHugh

A fall in the number of paramilitary-style assaults in Belfast and part of Co Antrim has been welcomed.

The number of attacks in both areas has more than halved over the last year.

PSNI statistics showed 16 assaults in Belfast over the last year compared to 39 the previous year.

In Mid and East Antrim they fell from 17 to seven, although the Antrim and Newtownabbey district saw the largest increase in such assaults, from two to 10.

PSNI head of the Criminal Investigation Branch Detective Chief Superintendent Tim Mairs said: "While we welcome the reduction in paramilitary-style assaults in Belfast and in Mid and East Antrim during this period, one assault is one too many for the victim.

"Let me be clear - there is no place for what are often faceless thugs who believe they have a legitimacy to mete out their so-called justice in our communities in an attempt to seek control through fear and violence."

Alan McBride from victims' group the Wave Trauma Centre said around half of the organisation's referrals which he had been responsible for had in the past involved paramilitary intimidation.

He said: "It is a major issue and I am hoping that this (reduction) is true.

"If it has halved in Belfast that is fantastic news.

"There should be no place in society for paramilitary thugs... in republican or loyalist areas.

"It should not be part of any society, anywhere. It is always counter-productive.

"Until very recently we were seeing a lot of people who were intimidated by paramilitaries."

Across Northern Ireland there were 64 casualties of paramilitary-style assaults during the last year compared to 76 the previous year, the PSNI said.

There were 22 victims of paramilitary-style shootings during the last 12 months compared to 26 during the previous period. In February this year Raymond Johnston from Poleglass in west Belfast was shot dead in front of his partner and an 11-year-old girl. At the time police believed dissident republicans may have been responsible.

There was a decrease too in the numbers of security-related deaths and bombings in the past year.

Derry City and Strabane was the only policing district to see an increase in the number of shootings over the last year, some of which were paramilitary-style attacks.

There were 181 people arrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000, up from 127 during the previous 12 months.

Mr Mairs said: "Not only do these attacks have a profound effect on the victim, but also on their families and the communities where they occur. I want to reassure the public that PSNI officers, together with the Paramilitary Crime Task Force, will continue to investigate and disrupt the activities of paramilitaries."

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