Belfast Telegraph

Five held in hate crimes probe

Five people have been arrested by police probing racist and sectarian hate crime in Belfast since Tuesday evening.

They are suspected of committing assaults or making threats to kill during unrelated and separate incidents across the city, according to the PSNI.

Superintendent Paula Hilman said: " I understand that hate crime has a psychological and emotional effect on victims and the wider communities. We need to remove all incidents of hate crime from our streets and ensure that victims have confidence to come forward and report to the police.

"We know that over the past few weeks there have been a number of hate crimes across Belfast.

"However, I would like to reassure the public that the PSNI treat all hate crimes seriously and will continue in our efforts to bring people before the courts."

On Tuesday police detained a 70-year-old man on suspicion of threats to kill and possession of an offensive weapon in the Westland Road area of North Belfast. He has since been charged to appear in court.

In a separate incident in the early hours of Wednesday police arrested a 39-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman on suspicion of common assault in the Donegall Road area.

Officers received a report that at about 1am a female customer in a takeaway restaurant was racially abused by a group of men and women and had food thrown at her.

The suspects have since been released pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service.

On Wednesday police detained a 51-year-old man on suspicion of common assault and disorderly behaviour in the Castle Place area. Officers received a report that at about 1am a man had tried to gain access to a restaurant at Castle Place and was aggressive and racially abusive to staff.

He has been charged to appear at Belfast Magistrates' Court next month.

At about 1.30am police arrested a 22-year-old man on suspicion of common assault in the Lisburn Road area following a report that a woman was punched, spat at and verbally abused. This incident is being treated as a sectarian hate crime.

The man has been released pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service.

The Polish government is very concerned at an upsurge in racist attacks against its citizens living in Northern Ireland, an official representative has said.

Honorary consul Jerome Mullen accused Stormont's political leaders of not doing enough to tackle racism.

Earlier this week a beauty salon in east Belfast was extensively damaged by arsonists. The business is managed by a Lithuanian but employs a number of Polish staff and, days before the attack, graffiti saying "Polish Out" was daubed on the shop front. Local residents and customers have since rallied in their support.

Last week three homes occupied by Polish people were targeted in north Belfast. All four of the incidents happened in loyalist areas.

A Polish couple were also verbally abused on a bus in Belfast city centre late last month.

While racist attacks have been on the increase across Northern Ireland, there has been a particular escalation in Belfast. In 2013 there were 307 racist hate crimes reported in the city, and last year there were 476 - 88 of which targeted the Polish community.

Police believe loyalist paramilitary elements have been involved in some of the attacks.

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