Derry does not want kangaroo courts
In this article, Foyle SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey argues that the vast majority of people in Derry do not support vigilante attacks against alleged drug dealers and calls for a dedicated police unit to be set up to tackle drugs.
The city of Derry was a heartland of the civil rights campaign.
The reasons why are well rehearsed. However, this was the case not solely down to the gerrymandering, minority misrule and systematic discrimination in the provision of jobs and housing that went here.
A significant additional factor was the fact that the people of Derry have always stood for higher values of equality justice and fair play.
Faced with injustice the people of Derry rose against it, marched to end it and stood up to the oppressors by sitting in our own streets. We took a peaceful determined stand in the face of violent provocation and displayed non-violence in response to vicious reaction.
And the considerable achievements of that movement were accomplished without firing a single bullet, planting a single bomb or drawing a drop of anyone else's blood.
Over the past 12 months we have seen a sustained campaign of terror by various paramilitary groups acting as judge, jury and executioner on people they deem to be responsible for anti-social behaviour.
We have witnessed punishment shootings, beatings, arson and banishment.
On some occasions innocent victims have seen their lives destroyed as they have been caught up in these vicious attacks by simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But let us send out a message to those that take the law into their own hands – the people of Derry do not want vigilante justice or kangaroo courts.
We put our faith in the law of the land, not the law of the jungle.
I am not underestimating the scourge of drug dealing or denying the devastation addiction can cause to families and our community.
Just as those campaigners of 40 years ago refused to allow the tyranny of the few to impose themselves on the will of the many we must do likewise today.
There is a clear need for the police to establish a dedicated drug unit in the North-West. Local drug dealers are running ruthless and sophisticated operations and are making massive profits.
They deal in misery and terror taking advantage of our community most vulnerable elements. They use terror and intimidation to prevent information being given to the police.
But we must do our utmost as responsible citizens to allow the PSNI to combat the drugs problem in this city. And in turn the PSNI hierarchy should give their officers they support and resources to run an effective campaign to eradicate drugs from our streets and estates.
That is why a dedicated drug team would free officers from the burden of their ordinary and very much valued duties fighting day-to-day crime.
On another level, we should also look to the South as to the measures they have taken in the fight against drugs.
We are all aware of the major problems in the towns and cities in the South, where anyone convicted of possession with intent to supply EUR13,000 (10,000) worth of Class A drugs receives a mandatory 10-year sentence – even for a first offence.
In the South they looked at their laws and revised them in order to deal with problem.
They sought to punish people who were big-time dealers and to deter people who were contemplating doing the same.
It is necessary for us to toughen our laws in order to deter people from engaging in this criminal trade, which has a profound effect on our city and could have a much greater potential effect if it develops further.
We should be looking at providing greater deterrents to stop people offending.
But until the Northern Ireland Executive has control over criminal justice we will not be able to address the problem of criminality and problems associated with the drugs trade.
While mandatory sentencing may not be the best way forward at least we would be able to look at sentencing policy based on new legislation.
This is why the SDLP believe it is essential we have devolved justice and policing powers as soon as possible.
The SDLP believes that everybody is equal before the law and that neither the state nor paramilitaries should be above the law.We will continue to demand that all parties and paramlitaries accept the rule of law.
For it was Robert Kennedy who once said, "Whenever men take the law into their own hands, the loser is the law. And when the law loses, freedom languishes."
The people of Derry have fought too hard for their freedom to allow faceless organisations with no support to use their violent ways to distribute their own version of rough justice.
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Weather for Derry
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 17 C
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