Northern Ireland news

Only 32 people convicted of housing intimidation in five years

Catholic families were intimidated from their homes in Cantrell Close in south Belfast in September. Picture by Mal McCann

ONLY 32 people were convicted in five years for intimidating people from their homes.

Investigative news website The Detail reported that even though the Housing Executive has dealt with thousands of intimidation cases, there have been relatively few prosecutions.

The figure for convictions covers the period from 2011 to 2016.

Intimidation hit the headlines again in September when Catholic families were forced to leave their homes in Cantrell Close in south Belfast.

The housing development was built under a shared community initiative and the leaders of the main Stormont parties took the unusual step of issuing a joint statement condemning sectarianism and the threats to residents.

Chief Constable George Hamilton has blamed the east Belfast UVF for issuing threats to the families.

He said police were not sure whether the threats were supported by the leadership of the loyalist group or were made by individual members.

Two men were arrested last month on suspicion of UVF membership but were later released pending a report to prosecutors.

Between April 2012 and April this year, the Housing Executive received more than 3,000 complaints of housing intimidation - around two-thirds of which were accepted.

The "overwhelming majority" were in the areas east of the Bann.

Almost three-quarters of the forced evictions came following paramilitary threats.

Sectarian intimidation forced 153 people from their homes. Racist threats were cited in 112 cases.

The figures also showed the Housing Executive spent £7m re-housing people threatened from their homes since 2012.

The body bought 57 homes under the Scheme for the Purchase of Evacuated Dwellings (SPED), at a cost of £6.7m.

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