Two new TV advertisements, which air on Monday at 9pm on both UTV and Channel 4, are set to highlight the dangers of illegal money lending by paramilitary gangs to control and exploit vulnerable people.
The Northern Ireland Executive Programme to Tackle Paramilitary Activity, Criminality and Organised Crime is launching the ads as part of its current ‘Ending the Harm’ public awareness campaign.
The two adverts tell the story of how a small loan from a paramilitary lender can quickly escalate out of control.
One advert focuses on the victim and her experience of the loan, and the second highlights the paramilitary lender and her actions.
Justice Minister Naomi Long has said: “We know from research and evidence that paramilitary gangs and those linked to them use illegal money lending to try to coerce and control people and communities for their own gain.
“When this campaign launched in June, I said that illegal money lending is an under-reported crime that targets vulnerable people when they are at their most desperate.
“In the current climate, people are experiencing real financial challenges,” she added.
“With the ongoing pandemic, increasing energy and fuel costs and Christmas just round the corner, many people are vulnerable and really worried about how to make ends meet.
“We know that it is common for victims of crime like this to feel that they have no-one to turn to. But support and help is available.”
The Justice Minister is encouraging all victims of criminal behaviour like this to contact the police.
Advice NI also runs a free and confidential debt service, offering practical advice and support to people dealing with debt of any description.
“The cross-Executive programme to address paramilitarism, criminality and organised crime is working to build safer communities, resilient to paramilitarism, criminality, and coercive control,” she said.
“This is important work to end the harm caused to our society by paramilitary gangs.”
Advice NI are an independent charity which offers confidential debt advice to anyone who finds themselves in this situation.
Bob Strong, Advice NI Chief Executive, said: “Our Debt Advisors are trained experts who can provide help and support to those in any type of debt and we would encourage people to call our confidential advice helpline on 0800 915 4604.”
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable (ACC), Mark McEwan said: “These criminals set unreasonable interest rates and expensive penalties which borrowers cannot afford.
“When people fall behind with their payments, they use the threat of exposure, embarrassment and violence. They make borrowers believe there is no way out of the situation.
“I would encourage anyone who feels they have been caught in such a situation, to report it to Police on the non-emergency number 101, or submit a report online using our non-emergency reporting form via http://www.psni.police.uk/makeareport/.”