Cancellation of Derry-Londonderry youth event 'a disgrace' says PSNI Chief

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By Michael McHugh, Press Association

The cancellation of a policing event at a Londonderry youth club due to republican protests is a disgrace, the Chief Constable has said.

Officers were due to have difficult conversations with young people critical of their use of stop and search powers, George Hamilton added.

Long Tower Youth and Community Centre called the meeting off after republicans vowed to stage a demonstration.

The PSNI chief said: "I think it is disgraceful that this group was able to exercise enough influence and pressure to have the event pulled."

George Hamilton spoke to Q Radio:

The conference was due to be held at the city's Guildhall on Wednesday.

Fringe grouping Saoradh promised to demonstrate because of planned PSNI involvement.

Mr Hamilton said: "This was not some sort of cosy tea and biscuits event. This was hard-edged young people who had their concerns about policing, coming to challenge their local police about how they conducted themselves."

He said the community had stood together and condemned the planting of a bomb which exploded in a car outside Bishop Street courthouse in Derry in January.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said: "I think it is a mark of desperation by this group to prevent this."

He said it was an attempt to intimidate young people out of engaging with police who were there to protect them.

"They have no interest in the community safety of our young people."

He told a Policing Board meeting in Belfast there were no "no go" areas for police in Northern Ireland.

The youth centre said it had "no option" but to cancel the event after Saoradh refused to engage in dialogue.

Saoradh representative Paddy Gallagher said youth clubs should be a neutral environment for children, not a political mechanism to adopt a broader acceptance of "so-called policing".

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