Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Man 'drank 16 bottles of alcopop before attacking police during rioting in Belfast' - court hears

Four men appear in court over rioting at Royal Avenue on Friday

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A man suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder drank 16 bottles of alcopop before attacking police in Belfast city centre, a court heard today.

Neil Rea claimed he became involved in disorder in Royal Avenue on Friday as he tried to protect an elderly woman from a water canon.

The 28-year-old was one of four men appearing on charges connected to trouble which erupted as loyalists protested against a republican anti-internment rally.

Fifty-six police officers were injured as violence engulfed parts of the city centre and surrounding areas.

Rea, of Symons Street, Belfast, faces charges of riotous assembly, assault on a female officer, and resisting police.

Opposing his bail application, a constable told the city's Magistrates' Court he was seen throwing bricks and bottles at police.

"He admitted during interview that he's on medication, yet he drank 16 bottles of WKD and knew this combination would affect his judgment."

It was confirmed that the assault charge involved Rea allegedly making a fist gesture at the officer rather than any physical contact.

A defence lawyer disclosed that the accused had been receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

She said Rea had been out with his girlfriend and had no intention of getting caught up in the trouble.

But after hearing his claim about wanting to shield a pensioner, District Judge Fiona Bagnall commented: "It's a big step from protecting elderly people from water canon to throwing bricks and bottles."

Rea was granted bail to appear again next month, but placed under a night-time curfew and banned from going within 500 metres of any parades, protests or demonstrations..

Also released were friends Simeon McCullough (35) of Schcomberg Drive, Belfast, and Jonathon McClean (38) of Moyard Gardens, Greenisland.

Both of them face charges of riotous behaviour, resisting police and obstruction.

The court heard the pair had been sober and were in the area for a peaceful protest.

According to police they pushed violently against police lines as disorder mounted.

McClean, a groundsman with Belfast City Council, is alleged to have tried to pull McCullough free after he was arrested, being struck by batons in the process.

The court was told McClean level of aggression meant he had to be detained in headlock.

He and McCullough were granted bail to return again on September 9.

However, a fourth accused, 19-year-old Jonathan Burton, was remanded in custody amid claims that he was seen pushing a burning vehicle towards police.

Burton, of Tenent Street, Belfast, faces a single charge of riotous assembly.

It was claimed that he threw bricks and bottles and was "fully engaged" in disorder in the Peter's Hill area.

Refusing bail, Judge Bagnall drew a distinction between Burton and the others because he is alleged to deliberately have followed the trouble.

He will appear again by video-link later this week to check whether a potentially suitable alternative address can be found.

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