A man who attacked soldiers with an uprooted tree during riots at the Ardoyne shops five years ago has been jailed for 18 months after he agreed to spend a further 18 months on probation.
Belfast Crown Court Judge Tom Burgess told 33-year-old Kevin Patrick McLaughlin he was “firmly convinced” he had been trying to tackle his mental health, drink and drug problems since then but added: “You should have come to see me in September 2006.”
McLaughlin, from Newton Gardens in Newtownabbey, originally pleaded guilty to a charge of rioting on July 12, 2004, but was convicted after a trial on further charges of attempting to inflict grievous bodily harm on an unknown soldier with intent, possessing a tree as an offensive weapon and theft of an Army issue shield.
During the trial the court heard how an Orange parade had passed by the shop fronts at the Ardoyne Road when around 20 soldiers came under attack from a crowd of almost 200 hurling bricks, bottles, breeze blocks and roof tiles.
One soldier gave evidence that he and his colleagues had formed a triangle, using landrovers as one side, in an effort to protect themselves from the baying crowd but that at one stage, they were attacked with an uprooted tree.
Yesterday Judge Burgess said it was fortunate that no serious injuries were sustained by the soldiers, adding that Father Aiden Troy gave evidence at the trial about his “amazement” of how fast the violence escalated.