Fifteen paramilitary-style beatings reported in East Antrim

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“Punishment attacks” carried out by paramilitaries by arrangement have taken place in Larne and Carrick, the PSNI has confirmed.

Five beatings have been reported to police in Mid and East Antrim during the past 12 months, compared to 17 and two shootings during the previous year.

Last month, police stated that paramilitaries were responsible for leaving a victim in Larne, man aged in his 20s, with “life-changing injuries” after being beaten in a “brutal” sledgehammer attack by a group of men in a house, at Woodvale, in the Tullygarley area of the town.

A PSNI spokesperson said: “The man, aged in his 20s, sustained injuries to his legs and arms and is being treated in hospital for what are described as life-changing injuries.

“This was a brutal attack which is being treated as a paramilitary-style assault.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs described the beating as “barbaric”.

He added: “PSNI statistics show that 417 punishment shootings or attacks occured in the past five years. Some of these attacks will have occured in Carrickfergus, Larne and Newtownabbey within the East Antrim community. Paramilitaries and their punishment attacks have no place within our society and I welcome the public awareness campaign by the PSNI.”

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson stated: “There is no place in our society for this type of thuggish activity.

“It is shocking and outrageous that these paramilitary-style attacks are still taking place. To now learn some are happening by appointment brings a whole new level of barbarity to the situation.

“The recent ‘Ending the Harm’ campaign is a good step towards helping end paramilitary activity in all its forms but more needs to be done. All those parties who agreed to deal with paramilitarism in previous agreements need to live up to their commitments and tackle this poison in our society.”

In Newtownabbey, there was one shooting recorded for both years and ten beatings during the past 12 months to the end of September.

There were 27 arrests under the Terrorist Act in Mid and East Antrim between September 2016 and September 2017.

Loyalist Geordie Gilmore was murdered in Carrick’s Woodburn estate in March 2017.

Just one arrest was made in Mid and East Antrim under the Terrorism Act during the past 12 months. There were two in Antrim and Newtownabbey compared to nine, the previous year.

The PSNI spokesperson added: “In the last five years, 417 people within our society have been shot or beaten by these thugs who seek to control communities by whatever means possible.

“Paramilitaries also force people out of their homes, 286 people can attest to that in the last year alone.

“Far from being the defenders of the people they are more fittingly described as the enemy amongst us.”

Commenting on the ‘Ending the Harm’ campaign launched to raise awareness of the devastating impact that paramilitary-style attacks have on the wider community, Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said: “Paramilitaries don’t carry out these attacks to protect communities. Instead, they do it to exert fear and control communities for their own selfish gains. These hypocrites acting as judge, jury and, in some instances, executioner do not represent the interests of any community.

“Contrary to the perpetrators’ rhetoric, not all of their victims have been involved in criminality. 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 re-offend within a year.

“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.

“We are targeting the groups and individuals we suspect are responsible for the attacks and tackling their wider criminality, be that drug dealing, money laundering, human trafficking or any other illegal activity.”