Belfast Telegraph

PSNI to get specialist officer to crack down on paramilitary loan sharks

The PSNI will receive funding for a new specialist officer to crack down on loan sharking by paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland.

The officer will work with the Paramilitary Crime Task Force to target illegal lenders.

The PSNI, HM Revenue & Customs and the National Crime Agency have established the Paramilitary Crime Task Force to tackle criminality linked to paramilitarism as part of the Executive’s action plan on tackling paramilitary activity, criminality, and organised crime.

A new education project will also be created to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks and to support vulnerable communities.

The Consumer Council will lead its first ever education and awareness campaign to help prevent the most vulnerable from being bitten by loan sharks.

In total, £5.67 million of funding will be provided to Britain’s Illegal Money Lending Teams (IMLT) and bodies in Northern Ireland to tackle illegal lending.

The money will be used to investigate and prosecute illegal lenders, and to support those who have been the victim of a loan shark.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley said the money would bring those behind illegal lending to justice.

"Loan sharks are a blight on society and prey on vulnerable people who struggle to make ends meet and their callous methods will not be tolerated," the Conservative MP said.

"Northern Ireland is at the forefront of fighting back against their criminal activity with the Consumer Council educating potential victims on the dangers and the PSNI ensuring those responsible will be brought to justice.

"More money than ever before is being spent to fund the fight against loan sharks as this Government continues to build a United Kingdom fit for the future."

North Antrim DUP MLA Mervyn Storey welcomed the funding announcement.

“All too often people have forced themselves into debt and have turned to drastic measures as a means of help. Loan sharks are not the answer and often lead to bigger problems. Education and knowledge of the help out there is key whenever debt is looming overhead," he said.

"Awareness of the dangers is much needed and I am glad that funding is now being made available to help crack down on the activity of loan sharks. I understand the Consumer Council will take a lead on the educational programmes and have a wealth of knowledge in relation to helping those in debt.

"The message is - if you are in debt support is out there. Exhortation of vulnerable people in a difficult financial situation is wrong. Loan sharks are not the Robin Hood of society and their activity must be thwarted at every opportunity. This extra funding will go some way to tackling this scourge on society.”

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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