Northern Ireland parents giving kids drugs before being shot by paramilitaries, says police chief
Parents of young people about to be shot by paramilitaries are plying them with alcohol or powerful painkillers before their "appointments", the Chief Constable has said.
The admission comes after it was revealed the number of so-called punishment shootings and beatings had surged by 60% over the last four years.
PSNI figures show that in 2013 there were 64 attacks, 41 by loyalists and 23 by dissidents, while in 2017 this figure rose to 101 (60 by loyalists and 41 to dissidents)
The newspaper reported that dissident republicans were more likely to shoot members of their own community.
Victims of the shootings and beatings are usually labelled as drug dealers or accused of anti-social behaviour.
It follows the recent murder of Raymond Johnston, who was gunned down at his home in west Belfast. The 28-year-old was shot dead by two gunmen in his home on February 13.
Police suspect dissidents were behind his brutal killing.
In an interview with the newspaper, Chief Constable George Hamilton said some parents were acquiescing in the punishment shooting system by bringing their children to arranged appointments for beatings and shootings.
"You have a culture of lawlessness and fear in some of these communities where the victims know who is shooting them," he said.
"The parent knows who is shooting their child. Sometimes parents are negotiating with these thugs to take the kid to certain places by arrangement.
"It is not unknown to my officers that in certain circumstances parents have dosed their kids up with powerful painkillers and alcohol to remove the impact of the 'punishment' shooting or beating.
"By colluding in this they (the parents) are hoping to negotiate less severe beatings or shootings.
"There is something madly wrong with society whenever parents even countenance doing that with their own children."
In 2013 four beatings were carried out by dissidents.
In 2017 the figure was 16.
Also in 2013 loyalist paramilitaries carried out 34 assaults. Last year they carried out 57. Those who carried out these attacks were aligned to the UVF and the UDA.
Mr Hamilton added that he did not blame parents, but said that it was an indication of "the climate of fear".
He said those behind such attacks were "quasi-terrorists who were and are very good at covering their forensic tracks".
He also said that victims were reluctant to identify those behind their attack.
Liam Kennedy, a human rights activist and history professor at Queen's University, founded the Children of the Troubles group to protest against punishment attacks on young people.
He told the newspaper: "The trend is still alarmingly upwards.
"The last month has been a particularly vicious month.
"The victims are mainly young men from working-class areas, and not even children are immune.
"Last year three children were singled out for mutilation through gunshot wounds to the legs.
"This is child abuse of a kind comparable to the actions of paedophiles."