West Belfast shooting was ‘child abuse’, says PSNI

The incident happened at Forest Street, off the Springfield Road in West Belfast.

The incident happened at Forest Street, off the Springfield Road in West Belfast.

The victim of a shooting in West Belfast last night was a 16-year-old boy, police have confirmed.

The teenager was shot in the leg at Forest Street, off the Springfield Road, at about 8.50pm on Thursday.

Shooting in Beechmount area of west Belfast

Shooting in Beechmount area of west Belfast

The Belfast Health Trust said the injured man is in a stable condition in hospital.

This was the second attack of its kind in the area within 24 hours.

Belfast Policing Commander Chief Superintendent Chris Noble has described the incident as “child abuse”.

He added: “Last night saw an attack on a 16 year old boy. Any civilised society would see that for what it is – child abuse. It is most definitely not policing or community safety activity.

“I want to condemn what has happened in the strongest terms. It is very early to speculate in terms of the people involved, but at the very least they are predatory criminals.”

Chief Supt Noble said it was too early to say if the recent shootings in west Belfast are linked, but added there was “an active line of inquiry” around the involvement of violent dissident republicans.

He continued: “I would not want to speculate on exactly why individuals were targeted but there is never any justification for this violent, abusive behaviour.

“There is only one police service in west Belfast and that is the PSNI. Policing only works when delivered with the community and policing in West Belfast has seen real progress over the last 5 years in relation to domestic burglary and vehicle crime in particular.

“Unlike others who in recent weeks have resorted to child abuse, maiming people and acting as self-appointed judges, juries and executioners, we work in partnership with the community to resolve issues of concern while at the same time being held robustly to account by the local PCSP and the Policing Board.

“We will continue to work with communities in order to bring those at fault to justice, but we need evidence and not rumour to enable us to obtain successful prosecutions. The dogs in the street may well know who is responsible but what I need as the local police Commander is for people to come forward and give me any information, however apparently irrelevant that our specialist detectives can use to secure a conviction. Information is key in these crimes where victims are often traumatised and people emerge from and run back into the shadows.

“This is now 2017 and yet we still have criminal elements within our community who have no moral compass whatsoever and are prepared to revert to child abuse and shooting people to further their cause. These criminals and facilitators of drug dealers need to get off the backs of the community and let us get on with making things better for everyone.

“I would encourage anyone that has any information regarding the recent shooting incidents or any criminal activity in the west Belfast area to contact police immediately on 101. You can of course also pass this information to a member of the clergy or a local elected community representative who can then pass it on to police so that these matters can be fully investigated and the criminals responsible can be brought to justice.”