Belfast Telegraph

Photographer assaulted two officers during Mayor visit protest

BY ALAN ERWIN

A press photographer has been found guilty of assaulting two police officers as Belfast's Lord Mayor was caught up in scuffles at a city park.

Paul Mateer nipped one officer and pushed another during loyalist protests over the attendance by Sinn Fein's Mairtin O Muilleoir.

The 45-year-old, of Blackmountain Walk, Belfast, was bound over to keep the peace for two years, fined £150 and ordered to pay a total of £175 in compensation.

A second defendant was convicted of disorderly behaviour over comments made to a policeman after the Lord Mayor had left the scene.

Samuel Lendrum (52), of Lawnbrook Avenue in the city, is already serving a prison term for a separate offence. He was given another one-month sentence to run concurrently.

The two men's co-accused, grandmother Maureen Simpson, (44), of Palmer Court, Belfast, walked free after the disorderly behaviour charge against her was dismissed.

The case against all three centred on demonstrations staged when Mr O Muilleoir arrived to reopen Woodvale Park in August last year.

Following a two-day trial at Belfast Magistrates Court, District Judge George Conner held that a wider crowd had subjected the Lord Mayor to verbal and physical abuse.

He said: "I'm satisfied in general terms that the abuse was of a sectarian nature and motivated by hate."

Giving evidence earlier in the case, Mr O Muilleoir said he came under ferocious attack which put his life in danger.

He said at one stage he feared neither him nor police officers shielding him would make it out.

A banner and laminated posters had been erected to declare him not welcome at Woodvale.

Some of the crowd shouted "terrorists" and "Fenian b******".

Tensions had been running high in the city at the time with demonstrations continuing over the Union flag situation and the ban on Orangemen parading past Ardoyne.

On day two of the trial supporters of the three defendants again gathered in the public gallery. Among their number was DUP councillor Ruth Patterson.

In his evidence, Mateer insisted he had only been in the park working as a photographer for the Shankill Extra. He told the court the DUP had asked him to take photos of the visit.

Denying prosecution claims about assaulting police, he said: "I'm not going to be made a liar by you. My father was an RUC officer."

Applause broke out after each defendant left the witness box. Lendrum claimed to have been innocently caught up in the melee.

The case against Ms Simpson was based on five seconds of camera footage. Judge Conner ruled that on the available evidence he could not convict her of the offence charged.

Convicting Lendrum of disorderly behaviour, the judge said that his remarks to police were not motivated by hate or sectarianism. But he told the defendant: "I'm quite content they were said to stir up and agitate the crowd."

Turning to Mateer, the judge said he was satisfied that he had deliberately assaulted one officer by nipping him under the arm.

Mateer also pushed another policeman and used abusive language, Mr Conner found.

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