FOLLOWING the Christmas lights switch on and celebration in the St Patrick Square in Downpatrick last Friday evening (30 November) with an excellent crowd, questions are being asked about how a large group of youths managed to cause a public order nuisance in the centre of the town. CCTV cameras failed to record the incident, but police are following up on inquiries.
After the main crowd of families and young children had dispersed, a darker atmosphere emerged challenging local Neighbourhood Police deployed on the ground.
A police spokesperson said: “The Christmas light switch-on was an event attended by families and went very smoothly with everyone enjoying themselves peacefully. However, a group of up to 250 young people between the ages of 11 and 17 stayed behind afterwards and our officers had to move quickly to disperse them.
“Local police believe that all of these children had pre-arranged to meet in The Square and indeed got changed from their school uniforms while travelling to the area. We would remind parents to show some responsibility for their children’s behaviour. We have identified some of those who were at The Square and have tried to contact their parents, however, no one is returning our calls.
“One person was arrested for disorderly behaviour and assault on police and was taken home to his parents.
“An investigation into an assault on a 15-year old girl at the scene is continuing. Police are aware of local rumours that officers had to stand guard at the ambulance while the child was being treated. This is not correct. Officers ushered a number of concerned onlookers away from the ambulance.”
Council Staff, Stewards and First Aiders Assisted Police to Quell Rowdies
A number of Down District Council staff were still in St Patrick Square later in the evening disassembling the stage and tidying up when trouble flared with the unruly teenagers.
A Council spokesperson said: “Down District Council hosted a very successful family orientated event at the Christmas Lights Switch-On which was very well attended and enjoyed by all present. Disturbances in the town centre on Friday night happened well after this event. Council staff, stewards and first aiders were still on-site at the St Patrick Square de-rigging the location and provided assistance to the PSNI who managed to resolve issues which arose late on that evening.
“CCTV is monitored every Friday night from 11.00pm. The CCTV outside these hours during which it is monitored focuses on a static point which historically has been determined by the PSNI as the key hot spot areas. On this occasion the cameras were not set on the area where the disturbance took place.”