Editor's Viewpoint: Time to get tougher over street violence
Every day, it seems, we read or hear of another random act of violence on our streets. The situation is particularly acute in our two main cities, but thuggery is no stranger in the smaller towns dotted around the province.
It is not just the fact that assaults take place, but the most worrying aspect is the level of violence which accompanies them.
There could be no more horrifying example than the assault reported in this newspaper today on a young mother in Londonderry.
The woman and her friend on a night out witnessed a fight taking place at a taxi queue. One man was knocked to the ground but his assailant continued to kick him in an effort to inflict more injury.
Acting as good Samaritans, the women tried to intervene but one was shoved up against some scaffolding and the other subjected to a horrendous level of violence.
Her head was pushed against the windscreen of a car, breaking the glass and leaving her with lacerations and a suspected fractured skull. She required hospital treatment and, understandably, was left traumatised and thankful her injuries weren't worse.
It is difficult to understand the kind of cowardly thug who would attack two women, and with that degree of violence.
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Given that it occurred in the early hours of the morning it would not be unreasonable to question if this was an alcohol-fuelled rage.
But how can society deal with incidents such as this? The usual answer is to call for more police on the ground, particularly at night when the pubs are closing. However, they cannot be everywhere.
Ordinary citizens can play a big part. There were witnesses to what happened in Derry and it is their civic duty to identify the assailant, even through the anonymity of the Crimestoppers organisation.
As well, the full weight of the law should be brought to bear on those guilty of such offences. Too often it seems they get away with pleading to a lesser charge, which carries a lower sentence in the eyes of the public than the assault would merit.
Given the frequency of the seemingly increasingly violent assaults on the streets, perhaps another look at the sentencing guidelines or the penalties permissible under legislation is required. The thugs need to understand that their actions, especially if fuelled by drink, will bring severe sanctions.
Meanwhile, it is hoped the young women make a speedy recovery from their ordeal.