Funding Secured For Crackdown On Illegal Loan Sharks

A specialist PSNI officer is to be established in Northern Ireland to tackle illegal loan sharks.

The PSNI's paramilitary crime task force is to receiving funding for the position as part of a £5.5 million UK grant to combat illegal money lending.

There will also be a new education project to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks and to support vulnerable communities.

Announcing the funding, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley MP, said: "Loan sharks are a blight on society and prey on vulnerable people who struggle to make ends meet and their callous methods will not be tolerated. Northern Ireland is at the forefront of fighting back against their criminal activity with the Consumer Council educating potential victims on the dangers and the PSNI ensuring those responsible will be brought to justice.

"More money than ever before is being spent to fund the fight against loan sharks as this Government continues to build a United Kingdom fit for the future."

The education and awareness programme will be lead by the Consumer Council and aims to "prevent the most vulnerable from being bitten by loan sharks".

In total, £5.67 million of funding will be provided to Britain’s Illegal Money Lending Teams (IMLT) and bodies in Northern Ireland to tackle illegal lending - a 16% increase compared to the previous year. The money will be used to investigate and prosecute illegal lenders, and to support those who have been the victim of a loan shark.

John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury said: "These nasty lenders are nothing more than lowlife crooks taking hard-earned cash from the pockets of the most vulnerable. Over 300,000 people are in debt to illegal money lenders in the United Kingdom and they need to know that we’re on their side. That’s why we’re taking the fight to the loan sharks and spending more than ever to support their victims."

Welcoming the announcement, North Antrim DUP MLA Mervyn Storey, said: "All too often people have forced themselves into debt and have turned to drastic measures as a means of help. Loan sharks are not the answer and often lead to bigger problems. Education and knowledge of the help out there is key whenever debt is looming overhead.

"Awareness of the dangers is much needed and I am glad that funding is now being made available to help crack down on the activity of loan sharks. I understand the Consumer Council will take a lead on the educational programmes and have a wealth of knowledge in relation to helping those in debt.

"The message is - if you are in debt support is out there. Exhortation of vulnerable people in a difficult financial situation is wrong. Loan sharks are not the Robin Hood of society and their activity must be thwarted at every opportunity. This extra funding will go some way to tackling this scourge on society."


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