Tough warning for flag protesters

Published Friday, 14 December 2012
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Tougher punishment will be handed out for any further offending linked to loyalist flag protests, a High Court judge has warned.

Tough warning for flag protesters
Protestors hold flags and placards at Broadway in Belfast. (© Pacemaker)

Mr Justice McCloskey gave notification to troublemakers that continued lawbreaking would be treated as an aggravating factor.

As he granted bail on Friday to a teenager accused of attacking police in Belfast, the judge's message included anyone charged with obstructing a public highway.

So far 40 people have been arrested in connection with disorder surrounding the decision to restrict the flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall.

According to the PSNI, 28 of them have been charged with a range of offences, including rioting, disorderly behaviour, resisting arrest and assault on police.

Henceforth it will be open to sentencing courts to view as an aggravating factor those who continue to offend from today onwards, given the very clear message that is being broadcast successfully by the courts.

Mr Justice McCloskey

Nearly 30 officers have been injured during outbreaks of violence across Northern Ireland.

Although no-one has been charged with obstructing a public road, a PSNI spokeswoman confirmed one person has been reported to the Public Prosecution Service for the alleged offence.

One of those accused of involvement in the disorder Johnathan McClelland.

The 18-year-old, of Tavanagh Street, Belfast, faces a single charge of riotous behaviour over allegations that he threw bricks at officers and kicked a PSNI Landrover.

McClelland was arrested and later admitted his involvement, the court heard.

Mr Justice McCloskey had adjourned his bail application until more details were given on a training course he has started in a bid to find work. After receiving the information the judge agreed to release the accused on tight conditions.

McClelland is to be curfewed at night, electronically tagged and banned from going within one mile of any public gathering.

"I hesitate to use the word protest because protest is an entirely inappropriate appellation for this kind of conduct," the judge said.

He issued a wider warning and stressed that the offending was becoming increasingly unacceptable and serious.

Turning to the "hundreds and thousands of people" involved in road blocks, he added that anyone charged with obstructing a public highway would also be held liable.

© UTV News
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11 Comments
Peter in Belfast wrote (584 days ago):
We all want jobs. We all want well paid jobs. We all want prosperity. I want a future for all kids. Why couldn't the council have delayed the vote till after Christmas? This will have an enormous impact on local economics. People won't shop. Shops will lose money. More closed stores on our high street during one of the worst recessions we have ever seen. More people out of work. People are leaving my work to get home early to avoid road blocks. Rush hour traffic is at a standstill. That is not good for international employers looking here to invest. I mean, would you invest here if you saw that? Would you? It is beyond arrogance. It is dinosaur politics. A throw back "Everything must drop for the local cultural sensitivities" load of absolute rubbish. I ask you: Did anyone seriously notice the flag at the top of the City Hall? I pass the City Hall every day at least twice and I never noticed it. Am I offended or happy it is taken away? I couldn’t care less. I want to get a promotion at work. I want to pay my mortgage. I want a career path. I want to give a future to my loved ones. I want to make them happy. That is what is important. Not flags! I mean wise up.
John in Newtownabbey wrote (587 days ago):
Yes and I'll believe it when I see it. The same happened in 1968/69 when it became clear that "democracy" only aplies to one side here. After all, weren't these poor downtrodden loyalists asked to swallow one reform too many? Note the word "reform". This is what you get when you try to drag neanderthals into the 21st century!
sean,d in belfast wrote (587 days ago):
you do it again ,your going to get it ! ok you do it again your going to get it.......right,,,you do it again ,,,,,yourrrr going to get it....ok....1 more time ,,,IF !
B festive in Belfast wrote (587 days ago):
Excellent... Two upside down flags and a placard advertising 'Northen' Ireland. I hope these were not the THREE concerned people who attended the public consultation on the flying of the flag at city hall prior to the council vote.
Belfast in Belfast wrote (587 days ago):
Get the flag back up at city hall
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