'Support right to a free, democratic vote' - PSNI hit out at election poster thefts
Police in Londonderry have told people to "support the right to a free, democratic vote" and issued a warning following a spate of election poster thefts.
As Northern Ireland prepares to go to the polls for the local government elections next month, dozens of candidates across the province have reported the theft of their campaign posters from lamposts.
Last week, four people appeared in court charged with the theft and criminal damage of election posters, stolen from around the north coast area.
Posting on social media, PSNI Foyle described the crimes as either "a moment of madness or something more sinister".
"Regardless it is a criminal offence. Depending on the circumstances it will be treated as theft or criminal damage," they warned.
Election Time Police have recently detected and are in the process of prosecuting people who have damaged/removed or...Posted by PSNI Foyle on Tuesday, April 16, 2019
"The posters are expensive to produce and they are the property of the people or parties standing for election."
Earlier this month, Sinn Fein accused the PSNI of "indifference" to the thefts, after several of their candidates' posters were removed in the south Antrim area.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, however, refuted the claims, stating police will "fully respond" to any thefts and prosecute those identified as carrying them out.
PSNI Foyle said that, while members of the public will not agree with each and every political party, "we as a society must remember to respect freedom of speech and support the right to a free democratic vote."
"The opportunity to vote is a cornerstone of democracy and a human rights issue," they wrote.
"Facilitating a fair, peaceful and effective voting process is a primary concern for the police service.
"Therefore we will act on behalf of ALL when enforcing the law when required."
Last month, SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan hit out at "amateurs" taking to social media to brag of collecting Alliance, Sinn Fein and SDLP posters in the Tyrone area.
He said he has made a complaint to police after one Twitter user posted a picture of the boards saying he would use them for the July bonfires.
Belfast Telegraph Digital