POLICE CHIEF WARNS PROTESTORS: IF YOU GET CAUGHT IN PUBLIC DISORDER IT COULD RUIN YOUR CHRISTMAS

Deputy chief constable Judith Gillespie

BY JUDITH GILLESPIE, PSNI DEPUTY CHIEF CONSTABLE

IT is disappointing that just over one week to Christmas that I find myself blogging about protests, threats and disorder on our streets. And whilst it is not my place to get drawn into the politics of decisions around flags and emblems, inevitably these decisions can have a very significant impact on your Police Service.

Over the past few weeks the officers and staff of the Police Service of Northern Ireland have been working tirelessly to try and facilitate peaceful protest and appropriately deal with those intent on violence, while at the same time, ensuring that everyone going about their normal business making Christmas preparations can do so safely.

In addition we have also had to contend with the series of threats and attacks on our elected representatives, which I absolutely and utterly condemn. The Police Service will continue to work closely with each of these members of our community to advise and support them.

I am appalled and condemn the attacks which have injured police officers and in particular, the disgraceful attempted murder of my colleague in East Belfast, when a petrol bomb was thrown into her police car.

Our officers and staff, like everyone else, have preparations to make in the run up to Christmas and unfortunately these recent events have meant longer hours for many, and family events being missed.

Despite all these challenges, we have the responsibility to continue providing the normal 24/7 policing service. Our ‘Season’s Greetings’ operation is ongoing across Northern Ireland and all sorts of advice on how to stay safe and avoid becoming the victim of crime this Christmas is available on our website www.psni.police.uk/index/crime-prevention/personal/personal-safetywww.psni.police.uk/index/crime-prevention/personal/personal-safety

All of these recent events come at a cost. Not just personal and financial for policing, but the economic cost to those businesses who were counting on a much needed Christmas boost. I have been listening to media reports about reductions in footfall in our towns and cities, accommodation cancellations and all this has the potential to have a much longer economic impact way beyond the current protests.

I appeal to everyone involved, or thinking of becoming involved in these protests to be responsible and to think about the longer term impact of their actions.

I welcome the joint statement of the First and deputy First Ministers and ask those within our Assembly and communities, who have influence, to give responsible leadership.

I ask young people who may see this as a chance to become involved in disorder to think carefully. Your actions can have a life long impact on your ability to go onto further education, seek employment or to travel. If you become involved there is a very good chance that you will be caught and dealt with appropriately.

This is not a situation of our making, but I want to reassure you that your Police Service will do everything it can in the days ahead to ensure that, in so far as possible, everyone can go about their business in safety and with minimum disruption.

Despite everything, Belfast and Northern Ireland is still a relatively safe place and by everyone taking sensible precautions, respecting the law and taking responsibility for their own actions we can all contribute to a safe and peaceful Christmas.

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