GANGS CRACKDOWN

Chief Inspector Nicky Thompson, of Coleraine PSNI.PICTURE MARK JAMIESON.
Chief Inspector Nicky Thompson, of Coleraine PSNI.PICTURE MARK JAMIESON.

A COURT has heard that Coleraine Town Centre has become a battle ground for rival gangs.

It is also alleged that the gangs from opposite sides of Coelraine, may be organising the fights through social media sites.

As five males appeared in court in connection with the incidents, Coleraine Police Commander Nicky Thompson said the ‘crackdown’ on the fighting would continue.

During yesterday’s sitting, the court heard that since the start of June trouble has flared three times on June 1st, 9th and 13th.

A PSNI officer told the court that the fights were of a ‘sectarian nature’ and that bricks and chains had been used during the incidents which occured at Railway Road and at Bridge Street.

The court heard that each of the incidents had been captured on CCTV and that up to 30 people have been involved in each of the gatherings.

Outling further details about each of the incidents, the officer said that on June 1, two groups met and were involved in a fight at Bridge Street, the second incident on June 9 took place just after midnight at Railway Road. The third incident also took place at Railway Road with the groups fighting on the railway crossing.

The officer told the court that police investigations were ongoing and that further arrests would be made.

In one incident the officer claimed that CCTV footage taken from the railway crossing showed one male being kicked and punched around the head around eight times.

Jonathan Neill (18) of Westbourne had appeared before a special court on Saturday charged with disorderly behaviour and affray in relation to the incidents.

On Monday, he appeared before the court again on video link from Hydebank Young Offenders Centre. No bail application was made for Neill. He was remanded in custody to appear again on June 24.

Four other co-accused also appeared in connection with the incidents.

They appeared in the dock together.

A youth, who cannot be named because of his age, is charged with two counts of affray, disorderly behaviour and assaulting a police officer. Appearing alongside the youth were Gregory McAfee (18) of Spring Meadows, he is charged with disorderly behaviour and affray. Two brothers Macauley Clyde (19) and Stephen Clyde (20) of Clifton Park also appeared in the dock. They are charged with disorderly behaviour and affray.

District Judge Alcorn refused bail on the grounds that the defendants were likely to re-offend.

They will reappear again via video link on July 8

Coleraine Police Commander Nicky Thompson told The Times that police are committed to halting these incidents, he also made a direct appeal to those involved.

He said: “We will not tolerate people fighting in public places in a recreational way. We have arrested people that we believe to be involved.

“The crack down will continue and even if we can’t make arrests at the scene we will use other ways to identify and arrest suspects.

“I want to say directly to those involved that one punch can kill or cause serious injury, ruining the lives of many people.

“One punch attacks alter the lives of victims and their families forever as well as the lives of the perpetrators who find themselves with a criminal record and the negative consequences that come with it.

“Police are committed to making Coleraine a safer place to live and work for everyone and I would ask the public to help us by reporting those involved in these fights. This includes asking potential witnesses to come forward to us.”