Public awareness campaign exposing reality of paramilitary-style attacks

PA

A hard-hitting campaign is being launched aimed at exposing the brutal reality of paramilitary-style attacks.

Some 87 people in Northern Ireland were attacked by paramilitaries in 2017/18.

Twenty-two were shot and 65 were assaulted, according to Police Service of Northern Ireland statistics.

Police statistics on paramilitary-style attacks
Police statistics on paramilitary-style attacks

Republican groups were responsible for 21 shooting incidents and 15 assaults, with loyalists responsible for one shooting and 50 assaults.

Over the last five years, 417 people have been targeted.

The new Ending The Harm campaign aims to highlight the impact of the attacks.

It tells the story of a paramilitary-style shooting from the points of view of four people: the victim, his mother, the paramilitary gang member and a witness.

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The campaign includes radio adverts and a poster of a badly beaten man. It is supported by the website www.endingtheharm.com, which has real-life stories and information on where people can go for help.

Anthony Harbinson, chairman of the Tackling Paramilitarism Programme Board, said: “The reality is that the perpetrators of these attacks don’t care about people, or justice, or solving social problems.

“They are only interested in exerting control and exploiting people for their own gain.

“They don’t offer protection; their sole aim is to terrorise and control, and they use shootings, beatings, drug dealing, intimidation, and protection rackets as their weapons.

“It is time to call out this activity, and that is what we aim to do.

“We are adding to the voices of those who have been speaking out on this issue for some time now and have been highlighting the injustice and barbarity of such attacks, and the devastating reality that lies behind each one.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray taking part in a panel discussion at the launch of a new campaign highlighting the impact of paramilitary style attacks on communities. Paramilitaries don’t protect you. They control you. #workingtogether#endingtheharmpic.twitter.com/JIaIJlucyh

— PSNI (@PoliceServiceNI) October 16, 2018

The PSNI’s lead for paramilitary-style attacks, Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray, backed the campaign.

“Contrary to the perpetrators’ rhetoric, not all of their victims have been involved in criminality,” he said.

“When criminality occurs within communities, the Police Service of Northern Ireland is the only legitimate provider of law and order.

“The causes of crime are complex and often linked to an individual’s mental health and substance abuse. Beating or shooting people simply makes these issues worse.

“Evidence suggests that where people have offended, three-quarters of people subjected to a paramilitary-style attack will go on to reoffend within a year.

“In contrast, the reoffending rates of people who are dealt with through the criminal justice system are much lower – at less than a third – clearly demonstrating there is a better, more effective alternative.

“In simple terms, reporting crime to police is more likely to stop it. In many instances paramilitaries know this themselves but they don’t actually want the crime to stop, they simply want to control it or take their cut.

“My message is simple. Policing works for communities, particularly for those communities that engage and work with us. Ultimately we all have a role to play in creating a safer society and ending the harm caused by paramilitary-style attacks.”