Alarm over hammer attack in north Belfast

The pictures we publish today of 14-year-old Patrick Burns, who suffered head wounds and extensive bruising when a gang attacked him with knuckledusters and a hammer near his north Belfast home, are deeply disturbing.

Patrick's mother, Donna McBride, said he feared he was going to be killed when he was knocked to the ground after accidentally walking into what was said to be a fight between rival groups which had been organised via social media.

Reports that the violence in the Deerpark Road area had continued for four consecutive nights, and involved individuals aged from their late teens to as young as 12, were particularly alarming.

It is essential that community representatives and police officers are given every possible assistance from the public as they set out to bring the confrontations to an early and permanent end.