Belfast Telegraph

Man drank 16 alcopops before attack, court told

BY ALAN ERWIN

A man drank 16 bottles of alcopop before attacking police in Belfast city centre, a court has heard.

Neil Rea claimed he became involved in disorder in Royal Avenue on Friday as he tried to protect an elderly woman from a water cannon.

The 28-year-old was one of four men appearing on charges connected to trouble which erupted as loyalists protested against a republican anti-internment rally.

Fifty-six police officers were injured as violence engulfed parts of the city centre and surrounding areas.

Rea, of Symons Street, Belfast, faces charges of riotous assembly, assault on a female officer, and resisting police.

Opposing his bail application, a constable told the city's Magistrates Court he was seen throwing bricks and bottles at police.

"He admitted during interview that he's on medication, yet he drank 16 bottles of WKD and knew this combination would affect his judgment."

It was confirmed that the assault charge involved Rea allegedly making a fist gesture at the officer rather than any physical contact. A defence lawyer disclosed that the accused said he was receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

After hearing his claim about wanting to shield a pensioner, District Judge Fiona Bagnall commented: "It's a big step from protecting elderly people from water cannon to throwing bricks and bottles."

Rea was granted bail to appear again next month, but placed under a night-time curfew and banned from going within 500 metres of any parades, protests or demonstrations. Also released were friends Simeon McCullough (35), of Schomberg Drive, Belfast, and Jonathon McClean (38), of Moyard Gardens, Greenisland.

Both of them face charges of riotous behaviour, resisting police and obstruction. The court heard the pair had been sober and were in the area for a peaceful protest.

According to police, they pushed violently against police lines as disorder mounted. Both were granted bail to return again on September 9.

A fourth accused, Jonathan Burton (19), was remanded in custody after being refused bail amid claims that he was seen pushing a burning vehicle towards police. Burton faces a single charge of riotous assembly.

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