Man in court over Newtownstewart stabbing

Thursday, 20 April 2017

A STABBING incident in Newtownstewart on Friday night has sparked calls from local politicians for an increased police presence in rural towns and villages.

A 38-year-old man appeared at Omagh Magistrates Court on Monday in relation to the incident.

He has been charged with grievous bodily harm with intent, criminal damage, two counts of possession of an offensive weapon with intent to commit an indictable offence, possessing an offensive weapon in a public place, threats to damage property and threats to kill.

The accused was remanded in custody following the court appearance. As is normal procedure all charges will be reviewed by the Public Prosecution Service.

West Tyrone DUP MLA.,Tom Buchanan, said incidents like the one last Friday night pointed to the lack of police presence in rural small towns and villages and communities were suffering as a result.

"Newtownstewart last Friday night was a typical example of what can and does happen. There always used to be a police presence in towns like this and in those days things like this would not happen. It's all down to officers on the ground. I know I've been on about this for a long time but that's the reality people living in the countryside have to deal with." Mr Buchanan said when the barracks were closed initially the public was told this would free up police officers, yet local people in these towns will tell you the opposite.

"We were also told there would be a public office for people to come and speak about their concerns and even if it was for only one day a week it would be effective but the police never kept to their word and this did not happen and rural towns and villages are stripped of these services," continued Mr Buchanan.

He added that the lack of police also removed any deterrent for anyone thinking of any wrong-doing.

"Police need to review their whole rural policing strategy because at the moment there's no presence there.

"It could be a tragedy waiting to happen. The Newtownstewart incident could have turned out to be much worse than it was and we don't want these things within our communities," he said.

Local Derg Area Ulster Unionist councillor, Derek Hussey, also condemned the incident and reflected on local concerns around violence on the streets of Newtownstewart.

"I was very concerned to hear reports of a violent affray taking place on a public street in Newtownstewart last Friday evening and a report that one of those involved having been stabbed can only raise the fears of local residents as to their general safety. Whilst not knowing any circumstances in regard to the affray, there can be no excuse for such violence at any time and I condemn it without reservation.

"Readers will know that I have constantly expressed concerns that limited and decreasing police resources, particularly in our smaller rural communities, may have reached a stage whereby community protection is compromised. Such concerns are now also coming increasingly from across the community and I continue to urge that this be addressed.

Alderman Hussey sits on our Derry City and Strabane Police and Community Safety Partnership, said he was going to take the issue further.

"I have every intention of bringing this issue of rural policing to the attention of our next PCSP meeting and raising again the concerns of our local community that there are not enough police resources being deployed in our wide council rural area. This, of course, is a matter for the Northern Ireland Policing Board and I will be asking that this board addresses its responsibilities to community safety by ensuring that proper resources are given to local police to efficiently carry out their crime prevention and community protection duties within our rural areas," he said.


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