05 August 2005

Police accused in wake of rioting


05/08/2005 - 09:16:50

Police were probing allegations that officers acted in a heavy-handed manner during raids on loyalist homes in Belfast prior to serious rioting, a senior officer confirmed today.

Forty police officers were injured during clashes with angry loyalists in the Crumlin Road and Woodvale areas which resulted in 11 plastic baton rounds being fired.

None of the police officers’ injuries were life-threatening.

Residents blamed police behaviour during raids earlier in the day connected to a probe into a loyalist paramilitary feud, claiming officers used abusive language towards children.

The disturbances flared around 5.30pm yesterday with three cars and a lorry being hijacked and set alight.

A blast bomb was thrown at police lines at around 10pm, while a bus was completely destroyed and other vehicles were damaged. A HGV cab was also driven at police lines. Officers also came under fire from petrol and paint bombs as well as fireworks.

Earlier six people were arrested as officers raided a total of 15 homes in connection with their probe into a feud between the Ulster Volunteer Force and its rival, the Loyalist Volunteer Force which has claimed the lives of three people.

Democratic Unionist councillor William Humphrey expressed concern about police conduct during yesterday’s raids.

“We have raised the behaviour of some officers which I witnessed yesterday with senior officers,” he said. “We want to see community relations being built in this community and not destroyed.”

Acting Assistant Chief Constable Wesley Wilson said any allegations against officers would be investigated.

“I know that there have been allegations of heavy-handedness by people,” he said. “The allegations made to the District Commander of North Belfast will be investigated and there are procedures for doing that.”

However he said the allegations still did not justify last night’s rioting.

Although there was no direct evidence that loyalist paramilitaries were directing the violence, the acting ACC said it was reasonable to suspect the Ulster Volunteer Force orchestrated last night’s disturbances.

“These people had wheelie bins full of bricks and bottles, they had so many petrol bombs that we actually stopped counting how many were thrown at our officers and blast bombs,” he said.

While no arrests were made, he confirmed police would be reviewing video evidence to identify those involved.

Northern Ireland Office minister David Hanson condemned last night’s rioting.

“Once again it is loyalist paramilitaries who have brought violence into loyalist areas,” he said.

“The Police Service of Northern Ireland will protect the whole community and must have the support of the whole community. Those with influence must use to bring an end to this self-destructive violence.”

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