Inside the mind of a teen rioter

Published Tuesday, 16 October 2012
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A self-confessed teenage rioter, who was dragged away from violent disorder in north Belfast by his mum, has told UTV why he set fire to a hijacked car and used it as a weapon to attack police.

The 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named because of his age, has already been sentenced after admitting riotous assembly, criminal damage and arson with intent to endanger life in Ardoyne.

"I didn't have a plan, but it's just the Twelfth of July - every year it happens. I had a bit of a thought in my head that there would have been rioting," the teen told UTV Live Tonight.

"I felt like I fitted in with the crowd. If I didn't do it, I would have felt left out. I wasn't thinking (that it could have hurt someone) at the time."

As soon as his parents found out where he was, they drove to the scene of the rioting and dragged him home - ashamed and disappointed that he had been involved.

I told him I was disgusted with him for being up there.

Teen rioter's mum

His mum found herself right at the centre of the violence, with water cannons being used by police to try to bring the situation under control.

"I just battled through the crowd and I went straight over and grabbed him," she told UTV, adding that she feels more parents should do the exact same thing.

"I trailed the mask off him, threw it on the ground and trailed him home."

The boy's dad added that there were other parents standing around who had to know what their children were doing, but that he was disgusted to find that his son had been involved.

"I thought I brought him up better than that. I was disgusted with what he'd done, and by the fact that I had to go out and face other people knowing what he'd done," he said.

The boy now says he knows what he did was wrong and has apologised to his parents, to police in a face-to-face meeting, and to local residents in a letter.

While he may have escaped a custodial sentence in favour of community service, he's still left facing up to the consequences of his actions - and a future with a criminal record.

It's not worth it. If you think you're not going to get caught ... You might not get caught at the time but, a week or two later, you could get a knock at the door.

Teen rioter

"I wanted to travel the world but I know now that, because I have a criminal record, I can't go to certain countries," he said.

"And the job that I wanted, I won't be able to get because of the criminal record."

The problem of teenagers becoming involved in rioting goes beyond one case and affects all sides of the community.

Some are even younger than the boy who spoke to UTV.

The youngest person charged this year in relation to violence in Ardoyne on the Twelfth was just 13, while the youngest person charged over serious disorder at Carlisle Circus last month was 14.

That leaves law makers and enforcers, youth workers and community figures with a tough battle still ahead, as they try to discourage new generations from resorting to violence in old disputes.

While some people believe tougher sentences would act as a stronger deterrent, others argue that jail can turn young offenders into career criminals.

© UTV News
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10 Comments
conair in belfast wrote (547 days ago):
gazza and what would we need to stop loyalist thugs from rioting? or have you got blue tinted specs on and have never seen the carnage loyalists have caused over the years by rioting? it wasnt this young guy rioting at denmark street/donegal rd/monkstown/rathcoole/whiteock etc.
Iain in Belfast wrote (548 days ago):
Hello, my name is Ryan and I live in a bubble. I firmly believe that the unionist side of the political divide are solely to blame for the problems in NI.
jimmymac in Canada wrote (548 days ago):
For Heaven sake,Surly after all these years there must be a cure for Northern Ireland's two biggest diseases, which are the self inflicted madness of contentious parading, and the contemptuous rioting, both sides are tarred with the same sectarian brush. It would be conducive to find an atmosphere for negotiation... and bring an end to the hurt and pain that all the great people of the North are subjected to. Marching and rioting must end...
gazza in belfast wrote (548 days ago):
maybe if there was no bigoted republican protests against lawful parades there would be no young ones to riot
Paul in Derry wrote (548 days ago):
Fair play to this lads parents. It took a lot of bottle to walk into the middle of a riot and drag him home. I doubt he will be taking part in any more riots. Reading this lads mindset, its easy to see how the more sinister elements in our society prey upon teenagers and use them as cannon fodder in their sick power games.
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