Jail for man who 'shot' at riot police during Union flag protests
A 40-year-old father-of-four who caused "mass panic" when he fired three shots at police lines during disorder linked to the flag protest has been handed a four-year sentence.
Thomas Finlay, from Cuba Walk in Belfast, will spend two years in prison followed by a further two years on supervised licence after he admitted a charge of rioting, and also possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence on January 5, 2013.
Belfast Crown Court heard trouble flared when a group of City Hall flag protesters returned to east Belfast. Police officers formed a cordon and then police lines were then attacked and Finlay - wearing a black balaclava - was captured on police CCTV appearing from an alleyway and firing a shot. He retreated down the alleyway, fired a second shot, retreated again then returned to fire a third shot.
Crown prosecutor Rosemary Walsh said the three shots fired resulted in "mass panic from police officers in the shield line at the front of the cordon".
While it emerged that the gun in question was an imitation, Ms Walsh said that at the time officers believed the weapon to be real. Sentencing Finlay, Judge Ramsey said he had "no doubt his involvement, albeit brief, was highly significant".