Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Martin McGuinness masks, laser pens and floodlights 'used to thwart police at loyalist protest camp'

Orangemen pictured parading up to police lines on Twaddell Avenue opposite the Ardoyne shops this summer
Orangemen pictured parading up to police lines on Twaddell Avenue opposite the Ardoyne shops this summer

Industrial floodlights and Martin McGuinness masks have been used to thwart police trying to gather evidence near a loyalist protest camp, the High Court heard today.

Officers have been attacked with fireworks, missiles and umbrellas as an increasingly hostile crowd of up to 300 people gathers nightly in north Belfast, it was claimed.

A judge was told the situation remains "fragile" ahead of another parade scheduled in the area at the end of this month.

Details emerged as bail was refused for a teenager accused of involvement in serious disorder in the summer.

Michael Dickson, 18, faces a single charge of riot after a Twelfth of July Orange order was restricted.

He is alleged to have been identified on CCTV footage throwing multiple bricks and fireworks at police on the Woodvale Road.

Trouble flared after marchers were stopped from going past the nearby nationalist Ardoyne district.

Dickson, of no fixed address, denied it was him in the footage.

He was seeking bail to live with his mother at Silverstream Crescent in the city.

But a prosecution barrister argued that address was too close to the scene of ongoing protests at Woodvale Road/Twaddell Avenue.

"Police believe there are approximately 200-300 persons present at this junction most nights and there is increasing hostility being used towards police," she said.

In the period between October 1-15 the court was told:

:: Laser pens have been directed at police gathering evidence.
:: Some protesters have spat in officers' faces and used umbrellas to attack them.
:: Industrial floodlights have also been used to prevent evidence being obtained.
:: Suspected bands have turned up to play in white overalls and masks.
:: Some of the crowd have worn paper masks depicting Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and other Halloween masks to conceal their identity.
:: Officers have been injured my missiles directed at them.

The barrister added: "Police describe the situation as fragile, with further parades scheduled for November 30."

Defence counsel Jonathan Connolly accepted a prima facie case exists against Dickson, who claimed he was in his bedroom during the rioting.

Mr Connolly added that there was no other address available to his client.

Mr Justice Burgess held that public protection was even more important than the interests of the accused.

Refusing bail on a number of grounds, the judge identified the address as one reason for his decision.

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