Anger at dis­si­dent threat to pro­ba­tion staff

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY BRETT CAMPBELL

AN un­prece­dented threat from dis­si­dent repub­li­cans against pro­ba­tion staff through­out North­ern Ire­land has been con­demned, with calls for its im­me­di­ate with­drawal.

Around 400 staff were in­formed about the sin­is­ter threat at meet­ings in Belfast, Lon­don­derry, Bal­ly­mena, Por­ta­d­own and Maghaberry Prison yes­ter­day morn­ing, which has re­sulted in the threat level against some mem­bers be­ing el­e­vated from low to sub­stan­tial, par­tic­u­larly in repub­li­can ar­eas.

The Pro­ba­tion Board said the in­crease in risk does not ap­ply uni­formly across PBNI and at­tacks against the ma­jor­ity of staff and premises re­main un­likely. PBNI has been work­ing closely over the last 24 hours with the De­part­ment of Jus­tice and the PSNI, who will now step in to pro­vide per­sonal se­cu­rity at some sites.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Cheryl La­mont vowed that work will con­tinue de­spite the threat.

“Ev­ery­thing we do is about pro­tect­ing peo­ple and en­sur­ing there are fewer vic­tims of crime. There­fore it is ex­tremely dis­ap­point­ing that we have been in­formed that the level of threat of at­tacks against PBNI has been as­sessed as hav­ing in­creased,” she said.

Gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Nipsa trade union Alison Mil­lar con­demned the threat “in the strong­est pos­si­ble terms”.

“I call on those re­spon­si­ble to with­draw this threat im­me­di­ately and al­low our mem­bers in pro­ba­tion to pro­vide the valu­able sup­port nec­es­sary in re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing of­fend­ers, many of whom have very com­plex needs,” she said. Lo­cal of­fi­cial Dooley Harte vowed to work with Pro­ba­tion Board man­age­ment to en­sure all nec­es­sary ac­tions were taken to en­sure staff are pro­tected.

Mr Dooley said staff were “un­der­stand­ably con­cerned” de­spite a firm com­mit­ment from man­age­ment to con­duct an im­me­di­ate re­view of se­cu­rity and ad­vise staff re­gard­ing their own per­sonal se­cu­rity.

Po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives united to voice their dis­gust at the height­ened threat level and de­mand its with­drawal.

For­mer Jus­tice Min­is­ter Claire Sug­den ex­pressed deep con­cern over the “cow­ardly” threat and warned that peo­ple were tak­ing ad­van­tage of the po­lit­i­cal vacuum.

“We need to be aware of the prob­lem that ex­ists when there is no po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship,” she added.

For­mer chair of the As­sem­bly jus­tice com­mit­tee Paul Frew in­sisted that pro­ba­tion staff de­served the full sup­port of the whole com­mu­nity.

“I would hope that staff will not be de­terred from con­tin­u­ing their work and that any as­sis­tance they need in terms of se­cu­rity will be pro­vided to them,” the DUP MLA added.

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly said the Pro­ba­tion Board played a vi­tal role as­sist­ing with the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of of­fend­ers.

“That is in stark con­trast to the ac­tions of the groups is­su­ing these threats, be­cause they bring noth­ing but fear and mis­ery to com­mu­ni­ties,” he said.

Dis­ap­pointed: Cheryl La­mont

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.