Priest criticises police after youths storm church

| March 18, 2010

Six teens entered the church before evening Mass, some of them running up on the altar and shouting at the congregation through the microphone.

Father Paul Daly, who described the events as "very intimidating", initially confronted the gang himself. He invited them to stay if they behaved but when they continued to act threateningly he said he called police and abandoned the service.

Two officers turned up soon after the report. They dispersed the gang but Father Daly said they did not take the culprits' names, meaning they did not receive a harsh enough punishment.

"It was very intimidating to be saying Mass with the gang sitting in front of me and misbehaving quite openly. I felt threatened and unnerved so much that I left the service to wait for the police to attend and remove the youths," he said.

"The sergeant's reluctance to use his powers to address this incident staggered me. It really is no wonder that Greater Manchester Police has been criticised by HM's Inspector of Constabulary for its attitude to anti-social behaviour."

St Joseph's Church in Heywood has been affected by sporadic crimes to the extent that CCTV cameras have been installed to record people coming in and out of the church.

Father Daly added: "Anti-social behaviour has plagued St Joseph's for several years. It has taken the forms of vandalism, verbal abuse and graffiti. The local police try very hard to deal with it and do have quite a lot of success. However, when basic mistakes like this happen, it makes me wonder whether GMP and the Rochdale Division in particular really do take anti-social behaviour seriously or whether they just say they do.

"I am expecting an apology from the Divisional Commander, but even more importantly I hope that he will ensure his response officers treat anti-social behaviour, and in particular disrespect towards places of worship, with the seriousness the public deserves."

A Greater Manchester Police spokesman said: "Police were called to St Joseph's Church, Heywood, following a report of youths causing problems. Officers attended and the youths were sent away."

Superintendent Martin Greenhalgh said: "We have been in regular contact with the complainant with ongoing issues, and in particular in relation to this incident.

"The local neighbourhood inspector has made further contact following and is pursuing a line of investigation.

"We understand that anti-social behaviour is of great concern to our communities and we are working hard to address this. In the last year across the borough, we have introduced many initiatives and reduced the number of reported incidents."

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Category: Church Security

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