Belfast Telegraph

PSNI accused of 'indifference' over election poster thefts

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said police were doing all they can to probe the incidents.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said police were doing all they can to probe the incidents.

The PSNI has been accused of "indifference" over the theft and damage of candidate posters for the forthcoming local government elections.

However, police said they were taking the necessary steps to investigate the incidents and determine if there was a sectarian motivation. They said they have received a number of reports and have arrested one man on suspicion of theft.

Posters for candidates in the May poll have been put on Lamp posts right across Northern Ireland as campaigning takes hold.  However, over recent weeks numerous candidates have complained of posters being damaged or torn down.

Sinn Fein said 14 of its posers were removed in the Randalstown area of Antrim on Tuesday. The party said this followed on from similar incidents including teams placing the posters being threatened around the Newtownabbey and Antrim Borough Council area.

MLA Declan Kearney said the removal of the posters was "planned and systematic".

“The theft of election posters is a criminal offence and a direct attack upon the democratic process," he said.

“These criminal acts will inevitably lead to another wave of hate crimes later in the summer.

“In the aftermath of last week’s wave of thefts, I privately urged the PSNI to make a public intervention against this criminal disruption of the electoral process.

“I am now publicly calling on the PSNI to take robust and effective legal action against those involved in the criminal theft and possession of election posters."

Police will fully respond to these incidents and any identified suspects will be liable to prosecution. police

Mr Kearney said the criminality "must be stamped out" saying the people responsible should be brought before the courts.

“There must be no ambiguity or indifference in relation to this anti-democratic behaviour. The PSNI needs to get a grip on this particular situation. Effective police action must now happen, and prosecutions pursued.”

Responding Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, District Policing Command appealed for members of the public to contact his officers if they see a theft or damage to posters..

“Thefts of election posters or criminal damage to them will be investigated as crimes, and all reasonable steps taken to recover any available evidence," he said.

"Police will fully respond to these incidents and any identified suspects will be liable to prosecution.  Like all incidents and offences due consideration will be given as to whether or not they are perceived to be motivated by hate.

“We would strongly discourage people from engaging in this criminal behaviour. I would appeal to anyone who witnesses the theft of election posters to contact Police immediately.”

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