Loyalists threaten medieval punishment

(William Scholes, Irish News)

Loyalist paramilitaries have threatened to inflict the medieval
punishment of the stocks to publicly humiliate those they judge to be
involved in anti-social behaviour.

Following a spate of burglaries and thefts in south Belfast's Village
area, leaflets bearing a picture of a man with his head and arms
locked in a set of stocks were put through letter boxes in the
district yesterday.

Above the photograph – captioned "This is a shaming punishment, not a
criminal punishment" – it reads: "The residents of the
Village/Donegall Road will not tolerate anymore anti-social behaviour
and we will ensure that the punishment will fit the crime, which the
whole community can partake in."

The A4 leaflet also states: "Do you know your neighbour, if not they
could be robbing you or your friends."

Ulster Unionist councillor Bob Stoker, who lives in the Village area,
said the leaflets reflected community anger at the burglaries.

"From a personal point of view, anyone who knows anything about these
burglaries should inform the police," Mr Stoker said.

"I can understand why someone who has had their house broken into and
their property taken wants immediate retribution but we cannot allow
ourselves to be judge, jury and executioner."

He said he did not know who was responsible for the leaflets.

"There have been a lot of comments to me about them and how they are
not about punishment but community humiliation," Mr Stoker said.

"I think people are starting to realise there is no point shooting
these criminals in the knees – they only get a compensation payment
out of it.

"If they are taken through the legal process they just get six months
at Hydebank [young offenders' centre] or a slap on the wrists and are
back at it again."

The burglars had stolen children's Christmas presents, an engagement
ring and a war medal in recent days, he said.

"One elderly man was visiting his wife in hospital after she broke
her hip and the burglars broke into their house and stole a lot of
cash," he said.

"The vast amount of people in the Village don't have house insurance
because they cannot afford it."

A police spokeswoman said patrols in the Village area had been
increased following a "recent upsurge of crime".

"Actions as suggested in the recent display of posters do not offer a
solution to this problem. Only the police supported by the local
community can deliver this," she said.

Inspector David Gibson said: "We are determined to catch whoever is
involved in this criminality.

"All available resources are being used to eradicate the problem and
provide reassurance to local residents."

Last year the UDA forced two young men it alleged had been involved
in house breaking to stand with placards proclaiming their guilt on
the Ligoniel Road in north Belfast. The group claimed it was moving
away from punishment shootings to 'naming and shaming'.

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