PSNI meeting over Castlewellan trouble

PSNI meeting over Castlewellan trouble

9 June 2021

A MEETING between Sinn Fein politicians and senior police to discuss ongoing trouble in Castlewellan town centre involving youths fuelled by alcohol is being viewed as a key first step to help deal with the problem.

South Down MP Chris Hazzard was joined by Slieve Croob councillors Roísín Howell and Cathy Mason to discuss the trouble with PSNI Inspector Darren Hardy and members of his neighbourhood policing team on Monday.

The politicians say while police have admitted they should have been more responsive to recent events in the town, the acknowledgement is only a first step and there needs to be a more “robust and energetic commitment” to work with the local community on the issue.

Monday’s meeting was the second to be held recently to discuss the upsurge in trouble in Castlewellan after officials from a number of agencies met last week with councillors and community representatives to discuss the issue. However, no PSNI representatives attended the meeting.

Mr Hazzard said politicians acknowledged the response from the PSNI that it has “organisational and communication lessons” to learn in dealing with anti-social issues in Castlewellan. He described this as a “good start” towards building confidence in the local community. 

The MP said that over recent weeks, the Castlewellan community has been left “frustrated and exasperated” at the police failure to respond effectively to growing levels of anti-social and criminal behaviour in the town. 

“Our local traders in particular are angry that such flagrant disregard for property and livelihoods has been seemingly allowed to go unpunished,” declared Mr Hazzard.

“Inexcusably, the PSNI also failed to attend a recent inter-agency meeting with community representatives, leaving many people asking the question if the organisation cares about Castlewellan?”

The MP said the question was put to Inspector Hardy and his neighbourhood team during Monday’s meeting.

He added: “I am glad that, in response, the PSNI has put its hands up and acknowledged that it has had organisational and communication failings in recent weeks in regard to Castlewellan and that it should have been much more proactive in response to events. 

“This acknowledgement is only the first step. It must signal a more robust and energetic commitment to work with the community to stamp out the criminal and anti-social elements who have had a free run for too long.” 

Slieve Croob councillor, Róisín Howell, said the “feeling of neglect” in Castlewellan has been protracted by the lengthy response time for police to arrive after incidents have been reported by the community. 

She said this is simply not good enough.

“Concerns have been raised by the community and night-time traders about the number of youths drinking at the Main Street/Upper Square area, while others raised concerns about how these young people are obtaining alcohol,” said Cllr Howell.

“Others in the community have stated that cars are reportedly sitting in the Upper Square at weekends openly selling drugs to our young people. As a community, we cannot let this continue.”

Cllr Howell said police need to support local towns and to re-establish confidence in local community policing by actively addressing people’s concerns.

She continued: “It is imperative that the PSNI liaise with the Policing and Community Safety Partnership and Education Authority in order to prevent any further issues and engage with the community in Castlewellan. 

“The local youth club is also keen to establish a positive working relationship with the neighbourhood policing team.”

The Slieve Croob politician said a significant increase in a police presence in Castlewellan is what the community deserves.

She added: “I look forward to continuing this engagement with the PSNI in the months ahead and hope that the constructive exchange today will result in a safer community for Castlewellan.”