Page last updated at 08:26 GMT, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Court cases 'used by Derry vigilantes'

Cocaine
Three men charged with having cocaine were shot

Police have asked judges in Londonderry to consider withholding the names of drug suspects to ensure their safety.

Republicans vigilantes Republican Action Against Drugs (Raad) have shot and hurt at least 15 men in the city.

Chief Inspector Chris Yates said the gunmen were finding potential targets by reading their names in newspapers.

He told the BBC he had asked the district judge in Derry to review whether the names and addresses of suspects should be revealed in court.

Shot

An example of what Mr Yates was talking about was outlined by Derry journalist Eamonn McDermott, in regard to three men charged with drug possession.

"We still have to work on the presumption of innocence," he said.

"These guys appeared in court on Monday charged with possessing cocaine, and on the following Friday night, two of them were shot.

"It's not intelligence-gathering, it's just reading the paper."

In recent weeks, the third man was shot in the legs after being ordered to go to an alleyway in the city.

Mr Yates told the BBC's Spotlight that police had "a clear picture" of Raad's membership but intimidation within communities was preventing them from gathering the necessary evidence to obtain convictions.

The practice of including people's ages and addresses in court reports is designed to avoid confusion should someone else have the same name.

Watch Enda McClafferty's BBC Spotlight investigation (UK only, available until 9 March



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