Paramilitary threats ‘force police to move home’

Image caption Police officers are being threatened by both republican and loyalist paramilitaries, said Dep Ch Const Drew Harris

About 20 police officers are forced to move home every year because of threats from paramilitaries, a senior police officer has said.

Dep Ch Const Drew Harris said the threats were predominately from dissident republicans, but also from loyalist paramilitaries.

“There is a steady drumbeat of that,” Mr Harris said.

“We could expect every month one or two officers to be in the position where they’re having to move home.”

He added: “Looking over the last five years, we could expect 20 officers per annum to have to move home.”

Elements of loyalist paramilitaries were heavily involved in crime, he added.

“Obviously they come into conflict with officers who are enforcing the law,” Mr Harris told the BBC’s Nolan Show.

“That’s a consequence of us doing our job in terms of protecting this society.”

Meanwhile, mental health related absence within the PSNI had increased by almost 40% in four years, an investigation by the Nolan Show has found.

Mr Harris said this created huge upheaval.

A threat a day

Last month, the PSNI said it was working hard to bring those carrying out paramilitary shootings to court after the number of such attacks doubled in the last year.

Twenty-eight paramilitary-style shootings were recorded in 2016-17, with republicans believed to be responsible for 25 and loyalists for the other three.

A further 66 people were the victims of paramilitary-style assaults, police said.

In February, it was revealed that police in Northern Ireland deal with one paramilitary death threat against a member of the community each day.

Last month, the leader of Northern Ireland’s largest party said all paramilitary groups should disband.

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Asked if the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) should disband immediately, Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster said: “There should be no paramilitary organisations.”

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