Crime and punishment (beatings)…

It was a hellish scene. The shaky video taken on someone’s phone showed a stolen car speeding up and down the Falls Road, doing hand brake turns at brake neck speed. Tyres and onlookers squealed; smoke filled the air. Terrified road users attempted to make it by without getting written off and pedestrians fled from the area. Just as the video came to an abrupt end, the sound of shots could be heard ringing out above the sound of the revving engine. While some young car thieves diced with death on the road, another young person was being shot in the legs only metres away. Within 24 hours of this shooting another young person- a child- was shot in the legs nearby. In fact, within the last few months there have been more than a half dozen people shot in these so called punishment shootings. How have we let our communities come to this chaotic, barbaric place yet again? And what are we to do about it?

 

While I am not a bleeding heart liberal, excusing the actions of the children who have been shot, my heart does figuratively bleed as these children physically bleed all over our alleyways. I think it is a shame on all of us. But there is a real problem with a relatively small group of children and young people in our communities. This group are engaging in behaviour that is troubling at the very least and, as with those who engage in car crime, life threatening and life taking at worst. This behaviour cannot be condoned. It must be tackled more effectively through the courts and through the social services.

Currently in West Belfast (and other places) there are people coming forward to tackle the problem of anti-social behaviour with an even more anti-social behaviour- pressing the muzzle of a gun to the knee of children. There are a number of reasons why I think this is a bad idea.

Firstly, I find it morally reprehensible. There is never- never- an excuse for shooting children, no matter how awful their behaviour is. It is simply child abuse. The long term damage done to these children, both physically and emotionally, is horrendous. And there can be no moral case made that it is ok ‘to meet fire with fire’. We don’t have a system of physical punishment for crime either in the UK or in Ireland. I believe this is because, we the people of these islands, have rejected this type of response to crime as immoral.

Secondly, and I address this point specifically to those people who do not share my moral outrage at the maiming of children through these attacks, it doesn’t work. Plain and simple- it doesn’t work. I grew up in West Belfast through the 70s, 80s and 90s. Throughout those decades we had very regular punishment shootings and beatings as well as other barbaric forms of punishment. And through it all, car crime and other forms of crime continued. Not only that, we are all familiar with the stories of those car criminals who, despite being shot on several occasions, went on stealing cars and driving them dangerously. There was a famous story of a car criminal who, having been shot in both legs and having to walk with crutches, drove a stolen car using those crutches to operate the clutch and accelerator. No, these attacks simply do not work.

And here is where it gets particularly harrowing- I believe the people carrying out these attacks know they don’t work. In fact, I don’t think their primary intention is to address the anti social behaviour at all. I believe their motivation is to gain credence within the communities where they operate. Shooting children, they can argue, is responding to a community need. However, they are simply using these children as currency in this bigger enterprise. How cynical.

So, how do we respond to this maelstrom of crime and barbaric punishment?

Police are hamstrung much of the time because no victim or witness will give a statement. There seems to be little in the way of forensic evidence either. It’s obvious that there is a job of work to do in mending relationships between the community and the police and to convince the community that it is ok to trust and work with the police. Our elected representatives have a role and a responsibility in helping this to happen. How powerful would it be, for example, for elected representatives and police to be seen walking the streets of the Lower Falls together, supporting each other?

Youth services are a vital resource within working class communities. Yet, we are currently facing into uncertain times in regards to the funding of our youth centres. What a statement it would be from our government if the budgets of these youth centres were ring fenced and even increased. They do so much good work with so little money as it stands.

Can we find a way to engage with ex offenders who have come out the other side in order to bring their stories to children and young people at risk of offending? Are there enough resources dedicated to this endeavour?

I heard someone say recently that if we can bring peace to the community of lower West Belfast, we are well on the way to achieving peace throughout this whole place. We owe it to the people of these communities, who have suffered so much throughout the conflict and beyond, to bring new thinking and a concerted effort to the table. 

Jim Deeds is a husband, a father, an author and pastoral worker. Find him on Facebook/GymForTheSoul and on Twitter @gymforthesoul 

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  • Ray Lawlor

    I grew up in west belfast and moved out precisely due to the car crime my family and I suffered. I’ll not go into detail on that.

    There are a number of things at play with the upsurge in punishment beatings recently.

    There are so called “dissedent” groups who are looking to stamp their authority on the the areas and taking care of anti social behaviour is part of that.

    Some groups are looking to fill the hole left by the “provies” and build a movement from basic community support – or at the very least, community indifference or “turning a blind eye”.

    What makes the problem doubly worse is the fact that the more emboldened these groups become the less likely the police will be able to deal with the ongoing problems.

    There is already talk of “no go” areas for police around Poleglass and twinbrook.

    The community needs to find a way of dealing with serious anti social behaviour without involving serious child abuse or emboldening paramilitary groups.

    I don’t know what the answer is. I wish I did.

    I will also point out how utterly counter productive punishment beatings are – most of the hoods see a beating as a badge of honour, and beatings do nothing but spur on the gangs.

    That’s without mentioning that it’s utterly bloody barbaric.

  • file

    At some stage, if we are talking about a problem involving children (I presume you mean people under 18 by that), we also have to talk about a solution involving parents. As to what that solution is with youths – or children if you like – making many areas of West Belfast no-go or dangerous areas for adults to walk in at night, it has defeated more patient minds than mine.

    As you say, Provie knee-cappings were no more effective at eradicating the problem than the current dissidents ones will be. (I wish I had your help on other threads though where some people insist the PIRA still exists – your comment ‘the hole left by the provies’ says a lot.)

    Community policing, otherwise known as vigilante groups, is a non-starter I think, for the simple reason that these youths do not hold older males in the same respect I was brought up to hold them in when I was their age.

    Name and shame? From where? From the pages of the andytown news would only give the car stealers more kudos. From the altar? I doubt if that would have the effect – or the audience – it used to have.

    What about cutting off their dole money?

    But really, until the parents begin to accept their responsibility for their children’s car stealing and anti-social behaviour, any outside attempts are doomed to failure. Cut off the parents’ dole money? Or for those who are not on the dole, make them personally financially liable to replace the car that was stolen?

    The PSNI? Did you hear the story during the week about the 3 PSNI officers making an insurance claim for personal injuries against the insurance of a man whose car was stolen? They were injured, during the course of their duties, chasing a stolen car. Now I was under the impression that police were paid shed loads of danger money because they might be injured during the course of their duties. I did not realise they had to try to cash in on personal injuries as well.

    But yes, the PSNI should be doing much more in West, and East, Belfast about anti-social behaviour.

  • Msiegnaro

    It can’t have been that important the self important LAD FB didn’t feel it was worth covering.

  • Glenn

    I blame the PSNI.

  • AntrimGael

    It’s undoubtedly barbaric as posters say but the sad reality is that many decent people in these areas will remain silent or simply shrug their shoulders and say “he didn’t get it for nothing”.
    Unless you live in the lower Falls, Poleglass, Turf Lodge, Ardoyne, the New Lodge etc and live with the anxiety and fear of anti social behaviour and criminality it’s easy to point and pontificate.
    The fact is that the PSNI, rightly or wrongly, are still viewed with total suspicion in inner city Nationalist districts and many residents simply don’t trust the police and Courts to deal with their problems. They see serial offenders lifted by the cops one day, get out on bail the next and continue their criminality. There is also the widely held suspicion in Nationalist areas that many of these criminals are being recruited as informers by Special Branch and are being given immunity for anti social behaviour.
    As I say unfortunately many people I have asked about these shootings have simply looked away with indifference, that’s the society we live in.

  • johnny lately

    “There are a number of things at play with the upsurge in punishment beatings recently.”

    Yes its called MONEY. Pay as you peddle type of thing.

  • Jim

    “Secondly, and I address this point specifically to those people who do not share my moral outrage at the maiming of children through these attacks, it doesn’t work. Plain and simple- it doesn’t work. I grew up in West Belfast through the 70s, 80s and 90s. Throughout those decades we had very regular punishment shootings and beatings as well as other barbaric forms of punishment. And through it all, car crime and other forms of crime continued. Not only that, we are all familiar with the stories of those car criminals who, despite being shot on several occasions, went on stealing cars and driving them dangerously. There was a famous story of a car criminal who, having been shot in both legs and having to walk with crutches, drove a stolen car using those crutches to operate the clutch and accelerator. No, these attacks simply do not work.

    And here is where it gets particularly harrowing- I believe the people carrying out these attacks know they don’t work. In fact, I don’t think their primary intention is to address the anti social behaviour at all. I believe their motivation is to gain credence within the communities where they operate. Shooting children, they can argue, is responding to a community need. However, they are simply using these children as currency in this bigger enterprise. How cynical.”

    This is, in fact, your primary point.

    It’s the absence of accountability for those responsible for “the attacks in West Belfast through the 70s, 80s and 90s” that needs to be addressed.

    The Provisional IRA, who carried out those attacks, are unmentioned in your post.

    A start would be those people admitting it was unproductive, and entirely cynical.

  • AntrimGael

    It should also be said that ‘punishment’ beatings and paramilitary control are as endemic in Loyalist districts. Last week a young mother had her house totally trashed in Ballybeen by the UDA.

  • Ray Lawlor

    Your comment is nonsensical and useless.

  • AntrimGael

    The British have no higher moral plain on the human rights abuse of children in the North of Ireland either. Over a dozen kids killed by British Army/RUC rubber/plastic bullets and 100’s injured, many maimed for life. “A start would be the British and Unionists admitting it was unproductive, and entirely cynical”. You see Pete it cuts both ways if you want to go down the hierarchy of victims road.

  • And back to the actual topic…

  • AntrimGael

    Which you introduced, not me. I am quite happy to discuss anti social behaviour but if you are going to resort to “it’s all the Chucks” fault don’t expect others to buy in.

  • If I may quote you tonight, AG…

    Alcohol over indulgence, which I don’t do very often, and Slugger are NOT a great combination.

    I can put a link to that….

  • AntrimGael

    Stone cold sober mate. YOU went on a rant about the Provos and NO I didn’t agree with shooting kids then either. So if it was morally reprehensible for the IRA to target them was it right for the British Army and RUC to shoot children, often at point blank range?

  • That’s not what you said a few minutes ago on another post. But hey, there you go…

  • AntrimGael

    My point about ‘Alcohol over indulgence’ was in response to North Down about PREVIOUS posts and correspondence with him and NOT this evenings. Come on Pete READ my posts properly. Have you been at the Harveys Bristol Cream or Snowballs yourself?

  • AntrimGael

    So with that clarified can you give me a reply on the British Army/RUC shooting of children, was that justified?

  • file

    He means they are drug-related in some way.

  • Ray Lawlor

    Yeah I know. I stand by my comment.

  • grumpy oul man

    “Self important LAD FB page”
    Boy you do love the little insult.
    I know your asked this a lot and rerely answer, but could you perhaps provide proof of your claims.
    Or can we put that in with the other unproved utterances.

  • grumpy oul man

    The biggest threat i see here is the Dissedents getting the same place in nationlist areas that the loyalists have in their areas.
    The situation where both polticians and police have to get UDA /UVF permission to get anything done in loyalist areas is a disaster for the people who live in those areas.
    That must not happen in nationlist areas.both people and polticians must not only support the PSNI but insist that they do the job they are supposed to do.

  • aquifer

    Teenagers will seek risk to balance the hormones in their heads, its a fact.

    A phase in growing up.

    They don’t need to do it this dangerously though, but will we pay to give them alternatives like sport and music? Broke Iceland did it:

    https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/what-iceland-knows-about-getting-teens-off-drugs

  • aquifer

    Bringing children out of school and onto the streets?

  • Jag

    Depressing to hear this week that taxi drivers in west Belfast have been intimidated by dissident republicans into removing PSNI adverts in their cabs warning about dangers of illegal scramblers.

    You get anti-social behaviour everywhere, in the best parts of London, in solid middle class areas of Dublin and right across Belfast. It does tend to be more prevalent in deprived areas. The only difference between Belfast, Dublin and London is, you have a group of self-appointed vigilantes, exploiting the traditions of Irish republicanism, to insinuate themselves into communities and exert control. At this stage, we know these vigilantes are no do-gooders, they extort businesses for protection or just so they won’t vandalise premises or beat up employees, they either deal drugs or “tax” drug dealers, and they have their fingers in so many other pies, people trafficking, prostitution, slave labour, cigarrette smuggling, diesel laundering. The Irish republican appendage is just a convenient badge.

    PSNI needs to do more, more police stations, patrols and community relations. At this point in time, 2017, it is high time these pseudo vigilantes got off our backs, but it has to be the police that help change the balance, you have the will amongst communities but individuals and small groups can be easily picked off.

  • aquifer

    Yep parents knowing where their children are, and spending more time with them, is a key part of programmes that work to protect teens:

    https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/what-iceland-knows-about-getting-teens-off-drugs

    We live in a dark wet place in winter, where can parents and kids go for free without foundering?

  • aquifer

    This is all about social control. The guns make it impossible for a normal police force to respond with any speed to complaints.

    Maybe we need to think outside the box and reconsider how the police should be able to escalate their response.

    Drones, self driving vehicles, and robots could gather evidence or maybe even disable stolen cars without young police personnel risking their lives or the lives of members of the public.

  • Croiteir

    Home

  • johnny lately

    Yeah I would know because I live in West Belfast and have done all my life and the dogs in the streets know which so called paramilitary group have the pay to peddle scheme going. There lots of parents who have paid the usual £3000 – £4000 pound fine and others who have watched as their loved ones went to a prearranged spot to be shot in the legs its even been in the papers and on the news but you know best from your ivory tower.

  • AntrimGael

    Are you saying that the British Army and RUC had the right to shoot children because “they were brought out of school and on to the streets”??
    Firstly I never heard of any parent taking their children out of school in such a scenario. Even if they did is that an excuse to kill them, often up close and at point blank range?
    That’s the justification the British and Unionists put out for decades when in fact many people witnessed the British Security Forces deliberately targeting children.

  • Ray Lawlor

    “Ivory tower”… last time I looked around Poleglass mate there were no ivory towers.

    (Apart from maybe the priests residents on the belle Steele road)

    I’m 36 and lived in Poleglass for the first 34 of them and honestly I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    I’m not denying for a second that punishment beatings take place – read my first post.

    I’m disputing that it is solely to do with drugs. Must peddlers in Poleglass are hoods. Most form their alliances in maghabery or Hydebank and most are as politically engaged as my cat.

    I’d love to know what part of WB you live to be honest.

  • AntrimGael

    I used to think it was ALL the parents fault but now realise that’s not always the case. I know a lovely decent couple, extremely hard working, polite, friendly and involved in nothing, no criminality, no paramilitaries. They have 4 children, 3 of them like their parents, hard working responsible, law abiding citizens. However one of their kids is an absolute scumbag, drug head, thieving so and so. His parents have been to hell and back and tried everything but he’s too far gone. It has really destroyed this couple, they both look 10 years older than they are.

  • johnny lately

    Im from St James area and im in my 50s, also been around a few corners and I know lots of families who have been fined by those ex hoods, many of them previously shot by the Ra, running around these days masquerading as republicans.

  • john millar

    Ah the mot juste

  • john millar

    “in fact many people witnessed the British Security Forces deliberately targeting children.”

    When? ?Where?

    How did they get to target them?

    Call at home? Waited outside school ?

    Do tell

  • johnny lately

    If you go to Beechmount Ave in West Belfast there is a mural with a whole list of murdered Irish children’s names. Children deliberately targeted by British security forces.

  • johnny lately
  • aquifer

    “I never heard of any parent taking their children out of school in such a scenario”

    I was thinking more of Irish separatist militants who were quite happy to have schoolchildren doing their rioting for them.

    They bear some responsibility for what happened, when they introduced firearms onto the streets.

    The British Army and RUC clearly had no right to shoot children. Of the children killed from 1969, did they kill very many?

  • john millar

    You have avoided the questions

    How did they target them?
    How did they arrange for them to be targets

  • johnny lately

    Check out link provided.

  • john millar

    Item shows People killed during riots/civil disturbance How did police/army orchestrate the situations -how did the ensure their victims would be present ??

  • AntrimGael

    1. Francis Rowntree – Age 11 – 22/04/72 – Belfast – Killed by British Army rubber bullet;
    2. Stephen Geddis – Age 10 – 30/08/75 – Belfast – Killed by British Army plastic bullet;
    3. Brian Stewart – Age 13 – 10/10/76 – Belfast – Killed by British Army plastic bullet;
    4. Paul Whitters – Age 15 – 25/04/81 – Derry – Killed by RUC plastic bullet.
    5. Julie Livingstone – Age 14 – 13/05/81 – Belfast – Killed by British Army plastic bullet.
    6. Carol Ann Kelly – Age 12 – 22/05/81 – Belfast – Killed by British Army plastic bullet.
    7. Stephen McConony – Age 11 – 19/04/82 – Belfast – Killed by British Army plastic bullet.
    8. Seamus Duffy – Age 15 – 09/08/89 – Killed by RUC plastic bullet.

  • johnny lately

    Well when your the one holding the weapon it’s usually point and shoot unless you know of a different method.

  • john millar

    Thanks fpr the detail

  • john millar

    I quote your comment

    “Children deliberately targeted by British security forces.”

    Again
    How did police/army orchestrate the situations -how did the ensure their victims would be present ??

  • Granni Trixie

    But you are off topic. The post is not about army shootings etc.

  • Granni Trixie

    I have the greatest respect for those victims and their families. But the post is about punishment beatings. This is sheer whatsbiitery.

  • murdockp

    The press have a responsibility to report the news accurately.

    The headline in the Belfast Telegraph used the line ‘Paramilitary Style Attack” which achieves two things:-

    (1) It desensitizes and diminishes the violence unleashed by referring to it in a legacy troubles parlance.
    (2) It suggests even subliminally that the victims were somewhat deserving of the beatings and were the victims of vigilante justice by introducing the work ‘paramilitary’.
    (3) The commentary regarding the ‘paramilitary’ style of attack suggests that it is normal behaviour and these people still operate in our society.
    (4) It gives these gangs political status when they are just career criminals.

    The language they need to use is how it would be reported in the UK as extreme gangland violence.

    At the same time the PSNI have turned into a graduate police force who live in fear of dealing with real crime. I watched two of them in Newry prosecuting a mother with a baby in the back for speeding despite the scale of criminality happening at any one time in any of Newry ‘s estates where they are no where to be seen.

    The PSNI needs to recruit vocational police officers who want to do the job rather than it current strategy of building a graduate police force who just want a public sector job which earns £35k per annum, generous pension and retirement at 50.

  • Granni Trixie

    What is depressing about the post/ thread is how little knowledge seems to have moved on since when I was involved in a piece of Action- research to deflect young people from car theft in the mid 90s. It inevitably lead to consider punishment beatings for controlling antisocial behaviour.

    What I learnt may still be relevant to understanding present situation:that young people get esteem from joy riding tending to be those who were doing badly at school.
    A working theory was that there were 7 stages to involvement – getting in back of the car,into the front seat etc until stealing cars becomes a main “employment”. So that as well as trying to engage with vulnerable youth you have to educate “community ” about their role in buying stolen cars and even in some cases placing orders. Also a “once a joyride always a joy rider” attitudes makes it more difficult for YP to change their behaviour should they wish t change.

    YP getting involved in Antisocial behaviour in WB was also thought to be connected to lack of maturation and insularity given many lived solely on the road, and there is provision for all needs, shopping, leisure etc and because of security and attitudinal reasons. This is a significant factor as those involved tended to have an age profile from teens to 25, a few years older than you might have expected. All the above gives a rationale for everybody who has contact with YP – parents,youth workers teachers – to try to build their esteem.
    But getting back to ‘punishments’ – we found it didn’t work for reasons given here. And we have not mentioned yet those who were exiled out of the country as a punishment. I suspect they were even more vulnerable to getting into trouble. Their fates are an element in the unwritten story of the troubles.
    Justice of the jungle.

  • john millar

    I blame the british

  • amouseinstead

    We need funding for young people. Yes, money is getting more and more scarce, but the way I see it, if you can put more money into Irish Language and Ulster Scots, and cut off nurses, youth workers and police officers in order o save money, then I don’t see why funding could be brought back into a more holistic overview.
    For instance: Hospices could do with more funding than Ulster Scots language. I am biased as I know a good family in which one of the children has an incurable medical illness of muscle dystrophy, which will stop him living past the age of 14. The reason for his potential premature death? The lack of funding of gaining treatment and the hospice must be ready two years in advance for him. Brexit may further impact the hospice’s amount of funding as the EU was quick to support it… and with conservatives in charge, we lose hope in ever receiving the appropriate amount due.
    Overall… we need to list our priorities in a more appropriate manner and start to look after the young people of the population.
    If we could only be like Finland… and engage in socialism, the world would be an imminently better place.