Nationalist rioters avoid prison

Nationalist rioters avoid prison

Two nationalist rioters escaped prison after a judge said their cases met the threshold of "highly exceptional circumstances".

Robert Douglas, 20, of Friendly Place, Belfast, pleaded guilty last year to rioting in September 2012 as well as possession of a six-inch bladed knife and resisting police.His co-accused Lee Patrick McCartan, 21, also of Friendly Street, Belfast, pleaded guilty to rioting during the same incident and assault on police.Sentencing had been deferred from last October by Judge Geoffrey Millar QC to see if the defendants had changed their ways.However, prosecution counsel Joseph Murphy revealed that Douglas was charged just a few weeks later with theft of £25 worth of electronic cigarette refills and had received 80 hours community service for the offence.He told Belfast Crown Court that a riot erupted on September 3, 2012 following a republican parade along Clifton Street in north Belfast involving around 100 people.Mr Murphy told Judge Millar the riot lasted around two-and-a-half hours as police tried to restore public order in the area.McCartan was identified kicking at police riot shields and was also said to be "orchestrating violence against police".When later arrested and cautioned, he told police: "You have no proof."However, Mr Murphy said that during subsequent police interviews the defendant made full admissions, saying he had little recollection of the day after having taken "40 Blues (tablets) and had drank a 10 glass bottle of vodka".Douglas, the court heard, was present at the riot for two hours, however his actual involvement lasted around 10 minutes.He threw a brick at police and attempted to flee the scene when police tried to arrest him.Mr Murphy added: "He continued to strike out at police during the course of his arrest."A defence barrister confirmed to the court that Douglas was arrested for theft just a few weeks after the court had deferred sentence.However, he said Douglas was now engaging with the Probation Service, was carrying out voluntary work with the charity Barnardo's and was also wanting to train to become a personal trainer.Sentencing was deferred last year as the judge believed there was "highly exceptional circumstances" for both defendants and wanted to allow them the opportunity to show the court that they could behave differently.The judge sentenced McCartan to 18 months suspended for two years as he had not re-offended since the deferral."You, Douglas, are at the crossroads in your life. In fact, your are at the fork in the road, either take the right road or the wrong road," said the judge.Pointing to the door of the cells, the judge told Douglas: "Had you not been engaging with probation you would be going straight through that door there."The judge sentenced Douglas to 18 months in prison suspended for three years and added: "If you commit any further offences in the next three years you will be put in prison with immediate effect. I hope you understand that."


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