Northern Ireland

Police tried to smash flag protester's car window

Police tried to smash a car window with batons to stop a man following councillors the wrong way down a one way street, Limavady Magistrate's Court has heard.

Barrie Mark Jackson, an ex-serviceman, of King's Lane, Ballykelly, County Londonderry, admitted dangerous driving.

He also admitted possessing an offensive weapon in a public place.

Jackson was sentenced to four months in prison suspended for two years.

He was also fined a total of £550 and disqualified from driving for a period of 12 months.

A flag protest was taking place outside the council offices in Limavady while a meeting was in progress.

As the meeting drew to a close the atmosphere was described as "tense".

The court was told that a group of councillors, including Sinn Fein members, left in convoy and police directed them to drive the wrong way down a one way street to avoid the protest.

At this point Jackson, 60, got into his vehicle and turned to go the wrong way as well, at one stage forcing an oncoming vehicle to stop.

Jackson continued to drive down the wrong way despite police efforts to stop him.

When he mounted the kerb, police tried to smash the windows in the vehicle with batons in order to grab the handbrake but were unsuccessful.

Jackson eventually drove through traffic lights and came to a halt and was arrested.

At interview Jackson said he knew he had done wrong and he also told police about a retractable baton he had in the car that he claimed he had for protection as he felt under threat.

He told police that he felt if Sinn Fein could drive the wrong way then he could too and he added that when police began striking at his windows it induced flashbacks of his time in the military.

A defence lawyer said Jackson did not dispute the reckless driving.

He said that Jackson "had taken umbrage" at the fact that Sinn Fein councillors were allowed to go against the flow of traffic and "what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander".

District Judge Paul Copeland said that Jackson had been engaged in "disruptive, disorderly conduct".

He said the pre-sentence report revealed Jackson had "a thoroughly misplaced sense of self importance" and that he traded on his military background which the judge said was "singularly undistinguished", "culminating in a dishonourable discharge".

The judge said that possessing a baton like this normally merited a custodial sentence, but he would give credit for the early plea.