A controversial operation against men looking for sex in public toilets in the Northern Ireland town of Coleraine has been praised by a local SDLP representative.

Twelve men have been brought before the courts after the Police Service of Northern Ireland launched a surveillance operation at public toilets in the town after complaints from local residents.

A 46-year-old man from Londonderry and a 44-year-old from Coleraine were fined £250 by North Antrim Magistrates Court after being convicted of “intentionally engaging in sexual activity.”

The Belfast Telegraph referred to the men as part of a “cottaging ring,” and reported that SDLP member of the Northern Ireland Assembly praised the actions of the police.

East Londonderry MLA John Dallat said: “The police have a duty to respond to this. The public toilets are facilities that should remain that way and not be taken over by any group of people.

“On this occasion there was a particularly good reason why police needed to intervene and respond to complaints from the public and I am pleased that the courts have backed them up on this occasion.”