Published Tuesday, 25 March 2014
Police use water cannon in east Belfast after they come under attack. (© Pacemaker)
Neil Nabney was found guilty by a jury on a charge of rioting on 5 January last year.
The jury took minutes to return the verdict after "overwhelming evidence" was presented against him at Belfast Crown Court last month.
Sentencing Nabney, Judge Donna McColgan said that despite initial denials of involvement, it was clear from the pre-sentence report that he now accepted his guilt.
Ordering Nabney to serve 21 months of his sentence in custody, with the remaining 21 months spent on supervised licence following his release, the Judge told him: "Not only did you lie to this court over a period of days, but you also had your sister lie on your behalf."
During the trial, the Crown told the jury that Nabney, from Enler Park Central in Dundonald, was part of a loyalist crowd who gathered at the City Hall in Belfast last January as part of an on-going flag protest.
The crowd then made their way from the city centre towards east Belfast and Nabey was captured on police CCTV throwing a missile in the Short Strand area.
He was then seen as part of a crowd of people at Pitt Park trying to break a piece of masonry.
Nabney was also observed talking to a man who was armed with a gun before throwing two missiles at police lines.
When Nabney was interviewed by police two months later, he claimed his memory wasn't great and that he couldn't remember where he was on the afternoon of 5 January, but that he was probably looking after his sister's children.
Nabney suffers from a rare condition called Treacher Collins Syndrome which has resulted in extensive facial scarring.
When police showed him CCTV footage from the riot and pointed out scarring to the face of the man on the footage, Nabney told officers he couldn't see any scarring.
Defence barrister Paul Bacon accepted his client opted to fight the charge "in the face of very compelling CCTV evidence," telling the court Nabey's conviction has resulted in him "losing everything".
Mr Bacon described Nabney as "very intelligent", pointing out that the former RBAI pupil has trained as a marine engineer and also as a pharmaceutical technician.
Telling the court Nabey has lost his job, his car and that he will lose his home, Mr Bacon said: "One moment of utter madness has left his life in ruins."
© UTV News