Flag protester drove wrong way on street
A flag protester drove his car the wrong way down a one-way street outside the offices of the local council, a court has been told.
Barrie Mark Jackson (60), a former serviceman, of King's Lane in Ballykelly, admitted dangerous driving and possessing an offensive weapon in a public place on December 11.
The court heard that a flag protest was taking place outside the council offices in Limavady while a meeting was in progress.
As the meeting drew to a close the atmosphere was described as “tense” and police were concerned that protesters might interfere with councillors as they left.
The court was told that a group of Sinn Fein members and other councillors left in convoy and police directed them to drive the wrong way down a one-way street to avoid the protest. At this point Jackson got into his vehicle and turned to go the wrong way as well, at one stage forcing an oncoming vehicle to stop.
Jackson continued to drive down the street the wrong way, despite police efforts to stop him.
When he mounted the kerb police tried to smash the windows in the vehicle with batons in order to grab the handbrake but were unsuccessful. Jackson eventually drove through traffic lights and came to a halt and was arrested.
At interview Jackson said he knew he had done wrong and he also told police about a retractable baton he had in the car which he claimed he had for protection as he felt under threat. He told police that he felt if Sinn Fein could drive the wrong way then he could too and he added that when police began striking at his windows it induced flashbacks of his time in the military.
Defence solicitor David Brewster said Jackson did not dispute the reckless driving. He said his client was at the protest as his son was one of the organisers.
Mr Brewster said that Jackson “had taken umbrage” at the fact that Sinn Fein councillors were allowed to go against the flow of traffic. He said it was “very stupid driving” and added that Jackson wished to apologise for his actions.
District Judge Paul Copeland said that Jackson had been engaged in “disorderly conduct”.
He sentenced Jackson to four months in prison suspended for two years, fined him a total of £550 and disqualified him from driving for a period of 12 months.
He told Jackson: “You have no business on the streets of Limavady during protests of this kind. None.”