Northern Ireland news

PSNI logs show curtain-twitching complaints during lockdown

Thousands of reports have been made to the PSNI through its online Covid reporting tool
Brendan Hughes

IT'S a question some may have struggled with as stringent Covid-19 restrictions have come into force: 'Should I complain about my neighbours?'

During the first lockdown as a fearful public came to terms with the virus, people were encouraged to report suspected breaches of the regulations aimed at curbing its spread.

Police records have now been uncovered which give an insight into the specific complaints received. While some appear to be significant breaches, others are more of the curtain-twitching variety.

A complaint was made against someone in Ballymena about daily visits to their "lady friend", while in Belfast a resident complained: "I witnessed a van pull up and proceed to groom our neighbour's dogs."

In the village of Ahoghill, Co Antrim, a household was shopped for having an elderly woman visit, with the complainer adding: "They also take multiple walks each day."

One Belfast resident dobbed in her own housemate for "going back and forwards between her parents' house in Omagh".

The snapshot of the PSNI's Covid online complaint logs was obtained by The Irish News through a Freedom of Information request.

It covers the 24-hour period from 2pm on April 10 following the launch of the PSNI's dedicated online reporting tool at the height of the lockdown.

In Belfast, police received a complaint that some children were playing together on a GAA pitch.

In Limavady, a complaint listed a series of car registrations that had called at a property.

"This is a daily occurrence ranging from morning to late at night. It has been happening for the last nine months," the complaint read.

In Antrim, one person listed the times they had recorded an individual engaging in "non-essential travel".

They added: "Even had five cars outside on Mother's Day. I expect similar antics over the Easter holidays and will obtain photos accordingly."

Several reports were made complaining about drink-fuelled house parties and gatherings of different households at garden barbecues.

One person made a complaint about a large crowd attending a republican funeral in the Ballinderry area outside Cookstown despite restrictions on funeral services.

More than 12,100 Covid-related reports have been received by police in Northern Ireland between March and September 23, including both calls and online reports.

Police have issued more than 2,800 Covid notices or fines since March for breaches of restrictions.

The lockdown earlier this year introduced stringent enforcement powers to shut non-essential businesses and force people to stay at home.

Launching their online form in April, the PSNI had said it was for reporting matters including breaches of social distancing guidelines, non-essential travel and licensed premises remaining open.

However, police had encouraged the public to use the reporting tool "sensibly".

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: "I am encouraging people to carefully consider the circumstances before making a report, but I can assure the public that all reports will be considered by our staff coordinating the operational policing response to Covid-19."

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:: Some of the complaints of alleged lockdown breaches received by police earlier this year

Ballymena: "[Redacted] who lives in [redacted] visits lady friend at above address on a daily basis at least once a day. Weekends more often. Comes for dinner every evening about 5-6pm and stays at house to approx 11pm. Moving from house to house. Is this not part of lockdown?"

Carrickfergus: "Large gathering in the restaurant. These people DO NOT all live at the same address. Possible family gathering."

Ahoghill: "Residents have an elderly woman come round each day who does not live in the household. They also take multiple walks each day."

Belfast: "I witnessed a van pull up and proceed to groom our neighbour's dogs.. This is not an essential service."

Belfast: "I reported my housemate earlier in the day for going back and forwards between her parents' house in Omagh and this address."

Antrim: "Non-essential travel during Covid-19 lockdown. He is a non-essential worker currently furloughed. Only today left at the following times: 0855-0910; 1150-1200; 1400-1425; 1515-1540; 1605-1635. Even had five cars outside on Mother's Day. I expect similar antics over the Easter holidays and will obtain photos accordingly."

Derry: "Breaking of the current coronavirus lockdown government guidelines as the householder is babysitting for another family."

Belfast: "A few kids playing together in the Gaelic pitch.. Intermittent sounds. Unsure how many. Can hear them talking."

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