Man in court over riot firearm

Man in court over riot firearm

A 38-year-old man has appeared in court charged with possessing a firearm on Saturday, during the third consecutive day of violence in east Belfast.

He was charged by detectives from the Serious Crime branch with possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, riotous behaviour and failing to remove a disguise when requested by a constable.

Thomas Finlay, from Cuba Walk in the city, appeared at Belfast Magistrates' Court on Monday morning amid a heavy police presence.

A police constable said that he could connect the accused to the charges, saying initial tests on the alleged firearm that was recovered confirmed it was a blank firing pistol.

However, the PSNI officer said further tests would be carried out.

No application for bail was made. Thomas Finlay was remanded in custody to appear again via videolink next month.

Trouble broke out in the east of the city on Saturday as protesters, who attended an earlier peaceful flags march through the centre of Belfast, returned home to the east.

Missiles were thrown from the nationalist side, however, loyalist protesters then became embroiled in street violence.

Riot officers battled serious disorder for several hours, before it was contained.

There have been protests, and street violence, throughout Northern Ireland since the passing of a motion at Belfast City Council to only fly the Union Flag on designated days from City Hall last month.

Meanwhile, at the same court on Monday, a judge was told that another riot suspect, John Leebody, 24, will lose his job if refused bail.

Leebody, a payroll administrator, is from Inverary Drive in the city.

A PSNI officer claimed he was seen throwing masonry at police in east Belfast on Sunday night.

Leebody's solicitor said his client had accepted the allegations, describing them as "a moment of madness".

Applying for bail, he added that the accused had worked hard to gain full-time employment.

"If refused bail he will lose his job," the lawyer said.

But District Judge Fiona Bagnall ruled that the risk of possible re-offending was too high.

She remanded Leebody in custody to appear again next month.


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