Participating in the Launch of “Ending The Harm”, a public awareness campaign on paramilitary style attacks, Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People said:
“I welcome the opportunity to support the clear message that groups who terrorise young people, families and communities must be stopped.
“There is no place in our society for these gangs who claim to ‘protect their communities’ yet operate for their own ends, they must be rejected and our communities protected from them.
“We wouldn’t tolerate such abuse of our children in any other context.
“There are parts of this campaign which are very difficult to watch but regrettably it depicts the lives of some of our young people - the mother taking her own child to an ‘appointment assault’ because the potential alternative is much worse, is based on true stories and must stop.
“These young people can often live in fear or poverty, experience intimidation, substance abuse or addiction and mental ill health in communities deeply impacted by NI’s conflict. All these factors combined with the impact of consistent underinvestment have resulted in a lack of confidence in the police and other statutory services. We know adverse childhood experience such as this type of violence against young people and families, has a significantly negative impact on their lives and outcomes later on.
“Services in youth justice, policing, education, mental health and social care need to be properly resourced and maintained. They need to work together with children and families and community based organisations, intervening earlier to effectively address the issues facing them.
“Communities must feel safe and confident in accessing all the services they are entitled to, including effective policing, so that gangs do not have the opportunity to exploit or take advantage of vulnerable communities and young people.
“I am confident that with the right focus and commitment, we can achieve the best start in life for all our children, young people and families. No parent should ever have to make the same choices as this mother, nor a child experience such horrific violence.”
Notes to Editors