Chief constable pledges to put children of paramilitaries into state care

Violent paramilitaries face losing their children to state care, Northern Ireland’s new chief constable has warned.

Simon Byrne (pictured) said people engaged in shootings are unfit to have custody of a youngster, and pledged to target them.

“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.”

Mr Byrne said it is time for communities to tell dissidents enough is enough.

“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 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.”

Police have exercised stop-and-search powers around 35,000 times between 2010 and last year.

A fifth result in an arrest but other community options are also used.

In most circumstances an officer will need grounds to conduct a search.

The Justice and Security NI Act 2007 provides for searches without grounds to counter terrorism or if there is a risk of serious violence or disorder.

Mr Byrne said it is impossible to compare Northern Ireland’s statistics to England, where use of the power has decreased, because its figures are so strongly influenced by London.

He said there is no like-for-like comparison between the powers used in Northern Ireland in many cases and in Great Britain.

“We use the power to deter criminality and we put other agencies and partners into that space to calm things down and to build relationships and opportunities in those communities, so I am not calling for stop and search to stop.

“I think it needs to be used carefully, we need to ensure we are fair, we are proportionate and work within the law, but actually, at the same time as people have concerns, other communities want to see more of it.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Liam McBurney / PA Wire.