Belfast Telegraph

Loyalists turn out in force at Belfast courthouse as Ardoyne bandsmen accused of playing music illegally

By Chris Kilpatrick

Dozens of riot police kept order as a crowd of more than 100 loyalists gathered to support six bandsmen charged with flouting the law during parades.

The men were accused of breaching conditions set down by the Parades Commission during several marches at a sectarian interface in north Belfast earlier this year.

The alleged offences took place close to the Twaddell protest camp, set up in July 2013, with all of the accused said to be affiliated with the Pride of Ardoyne band.

A large security operation was put in place for the men's first appearance before Laganside Magistrates Court, with a large number of PSNI Tactical Support Group officers positioned both inside the court building and in Oxford Street outside.

Tensions did threaten to spill over briefly when there was a heated exchange between loyalist supporters and a small rival group outside the court but the crowd dispersed without trouble a short time later.

Appearing before District Judge Des Perry were Robert Hayes Spence (57) of Alliance Road, Belfast; Gary Edwin Wells (24) of Loughview Close, Belfast; James Cosby (25) of Glenbryn Parade, Belfast; Neil Jamison (25) of Summer Street, Belfast; David Johnstone (23) of Westway Crescent, Belfast and David John Murphy (37) of Berwick Road, Belfast.

All six face charges of failing to comply with conditions by the parading watchdog by playing music between the junction of Twaddell Avenue and Woodvale Drive and the dispersal point at the junction of Twaddell Avenue and Crumlin Road during marches on a range of dates between February and May this year.

A defence lawyer said CCTV footage would be relied on.

The men were told they do not have to attend the next hearing on December 18.

A number of unionist politicians attended the court including the DUP's Brian Kingston and Lee Reynolds, as well as PUP councillors Billy Hutchinson and Julie-Anne Corr. Also in attendance was high-profile campaigner Willie Frazer.

Outside the court, Mr Reynolds hit out at the decision to take action against the six bandsmen.

"This is a complete and utter waste of time and effort," he claimed. "In the Ardoyne area we have armed men running around with newly developed rockets, who have impunity as they fire shots over coffins and they have organised huge riots, year after year after year."

He added: "Twaddell will be there. Peaceful protests will continue until the lodges and bands get their rightful, peaceful parade home."

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