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Belfast rioter handed jail sentence for role in disturbance at parade

By Alan Erwin

Published 20/11/2015

Burns was granted bail to allow him to appeal his sentence.
Burns was granted bail to allow him to appeal his sentence.

A man who attacked police lines with a bottle during disorder surrounding a republican parade in north Belfast has been handed a three-month prison sentence.

Bernard Burns was said to have been "hyped up" after the road outside his mother's home was blocked off due to the disorder on August 9.

The 21-year-old pleaded guilty to riotous behaviour, assault on police and two counts of having an offensive weapon in the Rosapenna Street area.

Despite imposing the jail term at Belfast Magistrates' Court today, a judge granted him bail for an appeal against the sentence.

Burns, of Oldpark Road in the city, was arrested following a second outbreak of trouble on the day.

Tensions had flared when an anti-internment march was stopped for breaching a Parades Commission determination on its timing.

Nine police officers were injured as the PSNI came under attack an hour later from petrol bombs, masonry and bottles.

A 60-strong crowd took part in the violence, forcing the deployment of police water cannon.

Prosecutors stressed that Burns' involvement occurred during a subsequent phase of the disorder.

He first lifted a plant pot, allegedly intending to use it as a weapon, before putting it down and throwing a bottle at police, the court heard.

Following his arrest he claimed the trouble could have been avoided if the police had blocked another part of the road.

"He stated that he was hyped up at the time," a prosecution lawyer added.

Defence barrister Sean O'Hare said Burns' actions were fuelled by the police presence stopping access to his mother's home.

"He's embarrassed and ashamed by his behaviour," Mr O'Hare said.

With the defendant having no prior convictions, references setting out his involvement in cross-community work were handed in.

Noting the clear record, District Judge Peter King said he could not understand how Burns got involved in the trouble.

"It's the most depressing duty I have summer after summer, sentencing young men who have otherwise impeccable backgrounds to periods of imprisonment," he added.

"The message has to get through that this sort of behaviour cannot be allowed to continue in this city if we are to move forward."

Mr King stressed that rights to parade, protest and demonstrate come with obligations to act within the law.

Imposing the three-month prison sentence, he said Burns would have been jailed for up to six months if he had not pleaded guilty.

He then fixed bail at £500 pending an appeal hearing set to take place later this month.

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