Page last updated at 17:39 GMT, Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Car-jacking crimes

Alliance MLA Anna Lo, who was the victim of recent attempted car-jacking, called for disenfranchised youth to be brought back into society, on 28 February 2012.

Sinn Fein's Paul Maskey praised Ms Lo for standing up to a youth who tried to steal her car.

In moving his party's motion on car-jacking, Mr Maskey said the public had lost confidence in how the police and judiciary were dealing with the crime.

There had been a spate of car-jackings in the greater Belfast area since the beginning of 2012.

Mr Maskey spoke of the need to tackle the "revolving door", which saw prolific offenders released after a short period in detention.

The South Belfast MLA described an attack on a man who had been hit on the head with a hammer and whose car was found burned out a short distance away, and said people were fearful of letting their daughters drive cars in Belfast at the weekend.

The DUP's David McIlveen moved his party's amendment calling for tougher sentences.

He said there was a group of people who "quite frankly, feel they are above the law".

Mr McIlveen said the message should go out that if someone was involved in this crime they were going to pay the consequences.

Ross Hussey of the UUP said the crime had spread to rural areas. He defended the approach of the police in dealing with car-jackings and the use of police bail to allow for the collection of evidence.

The SDLP's Colum Eastwood spoke about anti-social behaviour in general.

He called for better partnerships between the police and local communities.

Anna Lo said she found it difficult to support the DUP amendment as the maximum sentence for this type of crime was already set at 15 years.

She spoke of the distress caused to victims who had credit cards stolen and lost driving licences, keys, and their home address.

Ms Lo referred to earlier schemes to deter the crime of "joyriding" and said there was a need to be "proactive" in bringing young disenfranchised people back into society.

Paul Givan of the DUP called for robust action, citing South Africa where some cars were fitted with flamethrowers to deter car-jackers, although he accepted that this might be going too far for Northern Ireland.

Justice minister David Ford said that there had been 23 incidents of car-jacking so far in 2012.

The minister said he did not see the need for the executive to adopt a strategy for this particular crime.

He emphasised the importance of the community safety strategy and the role to be played by the new police and community safety partnerships.

Mr Ford said he did not think the use of a flamethrower on a car "would be acceptable in this jurisdiction".

The motion was passed as amended.

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