13/10/2010

Co Antrim Attacks 'Reaction To Police Presence'

Local politicians have joined the police in appealing for anyone with information to make contact after an officer had to be treated for head injuries sustained in an attack during a routine patrol in the normally quiet rural town of Ballyclare.

DUP Alderman Nigel Hamilton, (pictured) who is a past Chairman of the local District Policing Partnership (DPP) and a former Newtownabbey mayor, condemned the incident.

He said the violence was a way of attempting to drive a wedge between the local community and the forces of the law, and must not be allowed to succeed.

He said: "Following a number of incidents in the Grange area, the PSNI was asked by the DPP to pay more attention to the place and this attack seems to be a response by elements within Grange to that higher profile, a way of trying to keep them out," he said.

"In fact, all it is doing is distracting the police from doing their job in protecting the community, and I condemn these actions absolutely and would join the PSNI is asking for anyone with information about those responsible to bring this forward."

Alliance Newtownabbey Councillor Tom Campbell has expressed his shock at the attack in which the officer received head injuries after the vehicle he was in was attacked by a group of masked men with petrol bombs.

"I was shocked that a police officer who is there to protect our community was attacked in such a brutal manner.

"This attack has achieved nothing except to waste valuable police resources. The police should be able to patrol our streets without fear of being attacked in this manner.

"I hope that this officer is able to make a swift recovery from his injuries and that this attack will not deter him from serving our community," he said.

"If anybody has any information about this attack then I would urge them to contact the police. I hope the courts will make an example of those who carry out attacks such as this," concluded the Cllr.

The Ulster Unionist MLA for South Antrim Danny Kinahan has also condemned it as totally unacceptable. "I have spoken to the PSNI this morning and I am happy to hear that the officer has not suffered serious injury.

"That being said however this kind of behaviour is not acceptable. As I understand it this was a routine police patrol - officers out checking on the safety of local residents when they were attacked by a group of people firing petrol bombs and lobbing stones and bricks.

"Let us be clear - these are gangs - gangs trying to assert some sort of authority and control in these estates. Their behaviour will not be tolerated however and I know the determined work the local community association has been doing to try and stop it and I would encourage anyone with information to come forward," he commented.

Since the incident, the PSNI have said one line of inquiry is that an earlier police drugs operation at houses in the Castlemara estate in Carrickfergus could have sparked the disorder.

They said that a small quantity of herbal cannabis and cannabis resin was recovered during the search and 37-year-old man allegedly caused a disturbance at the scene and was then arrested.

He was later charged with disorderly behaviour, criminal damage and resisting arrest and will appear in court next month.

The police then came under attack by about 20 to 25 masked men during trouble in that seaside Co Antrim estate hours after the operation.

The PSNI said that fireworks, bottles, bricks, paint and a number of petrol bombs were thrown at police vehicles with one officer suffering minor injuries while a police vehicle was damaged.

The incident in Ballyclare where the other officer suffered head injuries during a routine patrol in a police landrover in the Grange estate is also connected to the original arrest.

The PSNI said that petrol bombs were thrown by masked men and some vehicles were damaged and that a police officer was treated in hospital for head injuries but has been discharged.

Later, there was also trouble in Eden, a small coastal village just outside Carrickfergus.

(BMcC/KMcA)

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