Northern Ireland news

Chief constable: Violent paramilitaries face losing their children to state care

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne
Connla Young and Michael McHugh

THE CHILDREN'S Commissioner has said removing children from their homes should not be used as a “deterrent or threat” against those involved in paramilitary activity.

Koulla Yiasouma was speaking after PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne said people engaged in shootings are unfit to have custody of a child, and pledged to target them, their families and property.

"My message to them is 'you carry on doing this, we will have your house, if you keep going we will have your car, we will have your kids, we will have your benefits and we will put you in jail'."

He added: "Why would I think you are safe in the presence of young children? So what safeguarding powers have we got to take your kids into care if that is a deterrent?

"I think we need to be more assertive, work with other agencies within the law to make people think twice before stepping into this space."

He criticised parents of children involved in disorder.

"The children I watched, I am guessing were early teenagers.

"I just found it strange that an adult would sit and watch as if it was evening entertainment, rather than actually intervene to stop anything.

"It relied on my officers driving past in the Land Rover that clearly became the target for the petrol bomb, and that seemed to be part of the sport, which I think was entirely unacceptable."

The recently appointed PSNI police chief added that “the use of paramilitary attacks, beatings, breaking people's legs, other limbs, in the name of the rule of law is just odious.

"How anyone could think that is justified in a civil society is beyond me,” he said.

Children's Commissioner Ms Yiasouma however last night said the placing of children in care should only be done in the best interests of a child.

“While I can understand the chief constable's desire to bring those involved in violent crime to justice, the removal of children and young people should not be used as a deterrent or threat.

“Existing processes of child protection exist to ensure the safeguarding of children and young people.

“The placement of a child into care is a measure of last resort and must only be done in the best interests of that particular child.”

Saoradh spokesman Dee Fennell said the police constable's comments demonstrated "a complete lack of understanding regarding the centuries-long conflict in Ireland".

IRSP spokesman Ciaran Cunningham said: “All right thinking people, not least legitimate political activists, will be disgusted by the opportunistic and downright ignorant remarks of the PSNI chief constable."

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