Published Tuesday, 12 March 2013
Police at the Albertbridge Road in January. (© ITV)
David Rowe, 20, was said to have gone to the city as street disorder flared out of "nosiness".
Rowe, of Old Mill Manor, Laurelvale in Tandragee, pleaded guilty to possessing an offensive weapon in a public place.
Belfast Magistrates' Court heard on Tuesday about how he came from Portadown with his girlfriend and other friends to be a spectator at protests in the Albertbridge Road area on 7 January.
He was stopped, searched and found to have a stone in his pocket.
It was not alleged that Rowe took part in rioting which flared over the decision to restrict the flying of the union flag at Belfast City Hall.
His lawyer said he was only there to observe events with his friends.
District Judge Harry McKibben questioned his alleged reasons for being at the scene.
However, he acknowledged Rowe has a job which involves dealing with asbestos in schools around Northern Ireland.
The judge accepted community service would not be realistic due to the defendant's work arrangements. Instead, he imposed an 18 months probation order.
Mr McKibben also stressed: "If he had been involved in the actual riot he would have been in jail."