Published Tuesday, 20 August 2013
Police put out a barricade in east Belfast with water cannon. (© Presseye)
Despite hearing from Major Ronald Semple that any prison sentence, whether suspended or immediate, would result in 22-year-old Edward Lynn being dismissed from the Territorial Army, Belfast Crown Court Judge Godron Kerr QC told him he could not overlook the fact that he had taken part in serious and widespread disturbances.
Major Semple told the court how Lynn had behaved in an "exemplary fashion" whilst on duty and had on occasions also behaved "in a manner which was above his rank".
Judge Kerr told Kerr however: "You made a choice this night and you chose to attack security forces even though you yourself served with credit in the security forces and for that, I'm afraid that you have to pay the penalty."
Prosecuting lawyer Robin Steer had told the court earlier that as part of ongoing serious public disorder and rioting as part of the flag protests, police in the Albertbridge Road area of east Belfast had come under attack on 5 January this year.
He described how a crowd of upwards of 100 people were launching bricks, heavy masonry, fireworks and petrol bombs at police and their vehicles and that at one point, as officers tried to deal with a car set on fire, water cannon had been brought up to help protect those officers.
The water cannon however came under attack from around 12 stone-throwers and Mr Steer said CCTV not only showed Lynn as part of that crowd, masked with a scarf but also that a Chief Inspector grabbed him as he fled the scene.
Even as Lynn was put into the back of an armoured land rover, that vehicle was surrounded by rioters who tried to force open the doors but that eventually, they managed to leave the scene.
Arrested and interviewed Lynn claimed his mother-in-law who lives in east Belfast, had phoned him for help and support so he had gone to her house but had become embroiled in the rioting.
Lynn, from Fenaghy Park in Ballymena, later pleaded guilty to a single charge of riot.
Solicitor advocate Paul Farrell said Lynn, who is a part-time Ranger in the 2nd Royal Irish had effectively been ostracised from his family who had themselves been members of the security forces, adding that Lynn had "expressed his deep deep shame and what he got himself involved in".
He argued that for what was 12 seconds of involvement Lynn, who served a tour of the Helmand province where he encountered "horrific scenes," would pay a heavy price indeed and urged the judge not to send him to prison.
On suspending the 15-month jail term for three years, Judge Kerr said whole everyone had the right to protest, no-one was entitled "to do so violently and not intentionally to try to cause damage and injury to the whole community".
© UTV News