Northern Ireland

Five jailed over sectarian riot in Belfast

Five men have been jailed for rioting in Belfast on 12 July last year.

Brendan Hughes, 19, Shaun McCann, 20, and Martin Murray, 19, were given 16 months in custody with time on licence.

Thomas Murray, 21, and Martin Downey, 37, were sentenced to ten and six months each respectively.

The judge said that while they all had clear criminal records, he was taking a strong line on sectarian rioters to send a clear signal to people not to engage in rioting this summer.

The court heard that riot police had been deployed to contain a mob that had gathered at the top of Broadway just before midnight and began making its way in the direction of the loyalist Glenmachan Street area.

The police came under attack from the mob, who threw stones, bottles and bits of masonry, but police succeeded in pushing them back up along the Falls Road where they dispersed for a period.

'Instigator'

A crowd of around 50 re-emerged and began attacking police for a second time, but were again dispersed and it was at this point that police, using CCTV footage from a PSNI Land Rover and identification by officers on duty, began making arrests.

The court was told that as the rioters launched missiles at police lines near Broadway roundabout, Hughes - who at that time was living rough on the streets in the area, but now with an address at Shanvis Court in the city - had also indecently exposed himself.

He was arrested and initially denied he had been involved, but after being shown the CCTV footage, he admitted his involvement and later pleaded guilty to charges of riot and indecent exposure.

McCann, from Whiterock Gardens, was detained in nearby Ard-na-Va by officers after he was also identified on CCTV footage. Police believed he was a "main instigator" of the volley of missiles that were being launched at police.

Thomas Murray, of Cavendish Street, was seen by police to have arrived on the scene during the ongoing riots and found to have stones in his pockets when he was arrested.

Martin Murray, also from Cavendish Street, had pleaded guilty to riot at arraignment and had apologised to officers at the scene.

Downey was seen by a police CCTV operator approaching police lines with two bottles in his hands, one of which he handed to another man, encouraging him to launch it at police. He was not accused of taking any further role in the disturbances.

Downey, a father-of-five from Ross Road, pleaded guilty to encouraging or assisting riot.