A 19-year old Donaghcloney man who travelled to Belfast to take part in a loyalist protest and who threw around 20 missiles at police when the protest turned to violence has been handed a 12-month sentence for rioting.
Elliott Gibson, from Weavers Lodge in Donaghcloney, will spend six months detention in a young offenders centre followed by a further six months on supervised licence when he is released from custody after he appeared at Belfast Crown Court on Tuesday.
Serious street disorder erupted in the centre of Belfast on the evening of 9 August last year after loyalists mounted a protest about an anti-internment parade which was due to make its way from Alliance Avenue to west Belfast via the city centre.
A group of protestors gathered in the Royal Avenue and North Street area and when trouble broke out, it spread to the nearby Carrick Hill and Peter’s Hill area.
Gibson - who travelled to Belfast with friends to take part in the protest - was present for around two hours and was captured on police CCTV throwing at least 20 bricks at police.
He was also observed pushing and kicking police shields, encouraging others in the crowd to riot and also being part of a group who tried to topple a police Landrover. He was arrested last November and during police interview, he admitted his guilt and made a full and frank admission.
Passing sentence, Judge Paul Ramsey QC said “the statistics make depressing reading”, telling the court that 58 police officers were injured during the unrest.
Judge Ramsey said that Gibson, like others who have faced similar charges, came before the court with clear criminal records and a good family background.
The Judge also said that a probation report compiled on Gibson revealed that while he didn’t intend rioting when he attended the protest, he was “angered by police behaviour.”
Pointing out that Gibson has since expressed remorse and regret for his actions and that he shouldn’t have got involved, he said the young man had to “pay the price”.
Also appearing on a charge of rioting was David Thompson, from Wilson Crescent in Ballymena, who travelled from his home to Belfast last January to take part in a legal protest over the flags issue.
Thompson, who is 19, attended the “perfectly legitimate and lawful” protest at the City Hall on 5 January, 2013, and when the loyalist protestors dispersed, Thompson “became swept up” with a group of people who made their way to east Belfast.
As the crowd passed the nationalist Short Strand area, there was an “incident of disorder” and Thompson was seen throwing two missiles into the area.
The court heard Thompson attended a police station with his mother in May 2013, where he admitted “getting caught up in the moment.”
Judge Ramsey said that after reading several reports presented to the court, he accepted Thompson’s actions were “out of character”, that he was someone “who is susceptible to being led by older people” and that he found himself “swept along with the crowd.”
He also highlighted Thompson’s clear record and the fact he had “shown extreme remorse.”
The judge then deferred sentencing Thompson for six months, warning him to stay out of trouble.