Carla Lockhart said:
“It is very concerning that 202 crimes have been recorded against places of worship and churchyards in the last year.
Some of these crimes have happened in my own constituency of Upper Bann and I know from working alongside the churches in the aftermath of these crimes, that the distress and fear this can cause amongst our faith communities and church family is very real.
When you factor in the CARE NI finding that over 600 attacks have been recorded on places of worship in Northern Ireland between 2014 and 2019, it is clear that this is a growing problem. When you also factor in that for the majority of last year, we were subject to coronavirus restrictions, it is deeply concerning that 202 crimes were recorded.
We need more to be done to support churches to prevent acts of crime on their property, and we also need more support to be offered following a crime being reported. A Places of Worship protective security funding scheme is already available to religious buildings in England and Wales, and despite the Justice Minister Naomi Long stating last September that she would look at a scheme for Northern Ireland, nothing has been brought forward. We need decisive action, not words, to address this rising tide of crime against churches and to give faith communities the support needed to protect their premises.
I have written to the Justice Minister about this and appealed for her to note these figures by bringing forward a specific Places of Worship Protective Security Fund as soon as possible. I also would ask that the PSNI continue to engage with churches across Northern Ireland in terms of advice on crime prevention, and to provide assurance that these crimes are treated with the utmost seriousness.”