15/05/2002

Police Ombudsman to investigate use of baton rounds

The Police Ombudsman office has confirmed that it is to investigate the use of plastic baton rounds fired as police attempted to deal with violent disturbances between rival factions in east Belfast.

Serious rioting broke out in east Belfast on Tuesday afternoon in broad daylight. During the disturbances a 16-year-old girl was shot in the chest with a plastic bullet.

In addition, the Ombudsman’s office is to investigate claims made by the family of east Belfast Sinn Féin councillor Patrick Devenney that a police assault left the father of two with a fractured skull.

The trouble broke out yesterday around 5pm just after a planned police raid of homes in the Catholic enclave of the Mountpottinger area.

Police said they believed around 500 people were involved in disturbances during which nine officers were injured. PSNI officers fired 12 plastic rounds and army personnel fired nine.

A senior PSNI officer said: “Police moved into the Short Strand area to conduct house searches and they were obstructed by bystanders from the outset. Several houses were attacked, and the police in them, by rioters and in one instance acid and ammonia bombs were thrown onto the house causing inhalation injuries to the police and leaving the householders hysterical.”

However, East Belfast Sinn Féin councillor Joe O’Donnell said the police were deliberately trying to raise tensions in the Short Strand area.

“We now have the PSNI raiding homes of nationalists and attacking them in the street. Some of these homes are the very houses which were attacked by the UVF. It is clear that the PSNI, through their violent and provocative attitude, are prepared to work in tandem with the UVF in trying to raise tensions in the area.”

(AMcE)

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