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BBC documentary on punishment beatings under police review

By Mark Bain ·

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A still from the documentary

The PSNI has said it will be studying the contents of a BBC documentary in which four masked men from an unnamed republican group justified paramilitary-style shootings.

The documentary, Shot By My Neighbour, produced for iPlayer-only channel BBC Three, heard one of the masked gunmen say through the voice of an actor they believe shooting people is a "justified and measured response" to anti-social behaviour.

Although the BBC said the PSNI have not been in touch to request footage, police confirmed to the Belfast Telegraph, "PSNI are reviewing the content of the programme with a view to establishing what, if any, evidential opportunities may be available to us".

The BBC said: "We took careful steps around the filming of this meeting and no voice recording exists on camera of the paramilitary group in the meeting. The decision to do this was taken beforehand and fully complied with BBC processes."

PSNI statistics show that in 2017 there were 101 recorded paramilitary-style attacks in Northern Ireland, 28 of those shootings.

Detective superintendent Bobbie Singleton told the documentary the paramilitary groups were "lining their own pockets" but denied there were "no-go areas" in Belfast for the PSNI.

"They (paramilitaries) have wanted to maintain their position and status within communities," he said.

"They are organised crime groups now. They are exploiting people within their community. They live like parasites, taking money off local businesses. Anyone who tries to develop anything in the area, they'll be involved in extorting money from them.

"They're taxing drug dealers, so they might come out and say they're taking action to keep people safe, but actually what they're doing is lining their own pockets."

Travelling by windowless van, investigative reporter Stacey Dooley is seen being taken to a secret location where she meets four gunmen involved in carrying attacks.

She is filmed meeting them in front of a starry plough flag across from a table draped in the Irish tricolour.

A member of the group tells her: "You don't feel guilt or remorse. It's social action. We have to stand up for the weaker members of the community. We want to help people. If you have to shoot somebody to help people then, you know, we'll do it.

"If we go to shoot someone, it's not on a whim. It's a calculated decision that this person deserves it. If people are suffering from mental illness, we wouldn't shoot somebody and drive them towards suicide. We believe that if you have to cause a bit of pain, it'll help in the long run.

"We know we're hurting people seriously, but we're hurting a parasite.

"In an ideal society no-one wants to resort to violence to quell issues. We do feel pressured into it and there's a big appetite for it.

"We believe it is a justified and measured response.

"We don't live in a normal society. This is how we deal with stuff."

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A still from the documentary
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Reporter Stacey Dooley