Belfast Telegraph

'They showed me the gun and told me to lie on floor' - teen victims' paramilitary shooting horror

 

Two teenagers, who were victims of so-called punishment shootings, have described the night they were shot - as the PSNI reveal the number of attacks have doubled over the past year.

There were 28 victims of paramilitary shootings - twice the number recorded in the previous year - in 12 months, latest police figures show.

There was also an increase in the number of casualties of paramilitary-style assaults, from 58 last year to 66 over the same period this year.

Loyalist paramilitary crime gangs were behind 56 of these casualties with the remaining 10 attributed to republican gangs, the PSNI said.

The increase has led to urgent calls from police and church leaders for communities to help end these "barbaric" attacks.

Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton said that around 6% of the paramilitary-style attacks carried out last year were against people under 18.

"An attack against a person of any age, but particularly a child, is completely unacceptable in any society.

"This is child abuse and should not be tolerated by any rational person," said Mr Singleton.

He added: "The people behind these attacks should be seen for what they are, hypocritical thugs trying to exert coercive control over communities by creating a climate of fear."

He appealed to communities not to ignore these attacks but to give information to the police.

"Our children deserve to be protected not punished," said Mr Singleton.

He added that police made a number of arrests in recent weeks in connection with various paramilitary-style attacks.

Two teenage victims of punishment shootings spoke anonymously to the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire Show.

One teen said he had done "one or two bad things" and as he tried to "change my life around and they were still picking on me".

He said: "My mummy visited me and said 'Listen I've been talking to someone to try and sort it out to get someone to give you an easy shooting'. I put my shoes on straight away and said 'Yes, let's get it over and done with'.

"On the night it happened I was told to walk up the street and I looked behind me and two men were there. I turned around and said to them, 'there are 10 times as many people out there doing worse than me'.

He described the moment he was shot.

"The first time they shot me I only moved a bit but the second time they shot me I was screaming. It went right through and hit my main artery. It busted my whole knee bone."

The other teenager said he was told to lie down on the floor before he was shot in the leg.

He said: "They got in contact with someone in my family. They told me that I had to go and meet them. I changed my trousers, went out of my house and went to the pub. I had two pints and then I got the text message that I had to go, so I walked over on my own.

"And that was it. I walked to the place they told me to go and they were standing there. They showed me the gun and told me to lie down on the floor."

"It's a burning sensation for like two minutes straight and then it stopped for 30 seconds - then it started again. It was burning and burning."

The teenager said he had done something wrong but that he had already been punished through the courts.

"I was punished for what I did, there was no need for them to shoot me. A court of law is for punishment. There was no need for them scumbags to do anything to me."

Church leaders also joined together to call for an end to the scourge of paramilitary attacks.

Speaking on Monday - the United Nations' Universal Children's Day - Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh Richard Clarke, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland Dr Laurence Graham, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, President of the Irish Council of Churches Bishop John McDowell and Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland Dr Noble McNeely, raised concern about the impact these attacks have on the lives of young people.

"At the heart of the vision for the Peace Process was the hope that children and young people might be protected from the violence that blighted the lives of previous generations.

"Sadly, too many in our society continue to be exposed to this violence at an early age, either as victims of direct attacks, or as members of families subjected to attacks or intimidation," they said in a joint statement.

"Making our communities safe and welcoming places is the responsibility of all members of society," they added.

The Church leaders warned that funding cuts and financial uncertainty threaten community work aimed at giving young people better opportunities.

"In this context, it is more important than ever that we seek to lend our support to initiatives that offer young people the chance to achieve their full potential and challenge those who seek to trap them in never-ending cycles of violence," they concluded.

The UK Government has said it is fully behind efforts to tackle paramilitarism and organised crime in Northern Ireland.

A spokesman said: "The UK Government has committed £25 million of funding to support the NI Executive's tackling paramilitarism programme.

"This has been matched by the NI Executive, providing a total of £50 million over five years (2016-2021)."

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