229 arrested over flag protests
Published 03/04/2013 | 16:56
More than 200 people have been arrested over the Union flag protests, police have revealed.
Of the 229 people detained as part of Operation Dulcet - the huge drive to bring lawbreakers to justice - 174 were charged with a range of offences including riotous assembly, affray, unlawful assembly, assault on police and criminal damage.
Sixty-two people have been reported to the Public Prosecution Service, including a number who were not arrested. A further 30 people have been released on bail.
Detective Superintendent Sean Wright said the police investigation had received strong support from the public.
He said: "It is vital that we all send out a message to those involved in public disorder that such behaviour will not be tolerated. Those who break the law must face consequences for their actions. They will be dealt with appropriately and proportionately through the criminal justice system."
The Operation Dulcet team is investigating a broad range of offences including serious rioting, hijacking of vehicles, attacks on politicians' offices, threats made against politicians, un-notified processions and social media based offences.
Last month the PSNI Chief Constable, Matt Baggott, disclosed that the cost of policing the ongoing Union flag protests had topped £20 million. The demonstrations have been held since early December when Belfast City Council voted to limit the number of days the flag flies over City Hall.
A number of protests descended into serious violence and rioting, particularly in east Belfast, with about 140 police officers being injured. The protests have become more sporadic and less incendiary in recent weeks.
High profile loyalists Willie Frazer, 53, from Co Armagh, and Jamie Bryson, 23, from Co Down, were remanded in custody charged with public order offences connected to the protests. Both men have since been released under strict bail conditions.
During the height of the flag crisis death threats were sent to a number of politicians including the East Belfast MP Naomi Long from the cross-community Alliance Party whose constituency office was picketed. A number of other Alliance Party representatives had their homes and offices vandalised.