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PSNI clear 10 of 317 paramilitary-style 'punishment' attacks

From 2013 to 2016 there were a total of 214 paramilitary-style assaults and 103 shootings across the north. Picture by Pacemaker Press
Andrew Madden

MORE than 300 paramilitary-style assaults and shootings have taken place in the last four years - with only 10 resulting in someone being charged or summoned to court.

Figures obtained by The Irish News through a freedom of information request, from 2013 to 2016 there were a total of 214 assaults and 103 shootings.

Of these 317 attacks, about 3 per cent have been cleared by the PSNI by way of a formal charge or court summons.

The majority of victims have been males between the age of 16 and 35, however, four have been children under the age of 16.

Nearly all of these casualties, some 97 per cent, have been male.

The weapons used ranged from nail-studded bats to sledgehammers, however, baseball bats were the most common.

Up until the start of April 2015, Northern Ireland was split up into eight policing districts and, in the years prior to these changes, north and west Belfast saw the most paramilitary assaults and shootings.

Following a review of public administration in the north, policing districts were changed to mirror the new 'super-council' areas, while Belfast was split into four policing districts.

From April 2015 to the end of December last year, the Woodbourne Street Local Policing district of Belfast and Mid and East Antrim were the most common locations of paramilitary-style assaults or shootings.

This district covers the southwest area of Belfast, which includes the Falls, Ballymurphy, Andersonstown and Twinbrook areas.

SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan, who is sits on the Northern Ireland Policing Board, called the clearance rate for these attacks "absolutely scandalous".

"These people are standing on the neck of communities across the north and it seems they're doing so with relative impunity," he said.

"I will be raising serious questions about the policing outcomes in relation to these crimes. It's also critical that people with information come forward to assist the police. Victims of these attacks deserve better."

The UUP's justice spokesperson Doug Beattie said the frequency of these attacks, more than one every week, was "utterly unacceptable".

"If anyone is in any doubt as to the task faced by The Fresh Start panel on the disbandment of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, then these statistics do indeed make shocking reading," he said.

"These majority of these attacks take place on young men, and the public will be shocked to learn that only 10 of these attacks have resulted in people being charged."

There have been several recent paramilitary-style attacks in recent weeks including one on a 'vulnerable' 15-year-old boy in Derry. A gang of masked men carried out the assault in the Gartan Square area of the city, breaking several bones.

Last Friday, a man in his thirties was shot in the ankle in west Belfast and on Sunday night another man, also in his thirties, was shot in both legs in north Belfast.

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