Belfast Telegraph

Rioter's jail term is cut over mental health fears

The last of the Ardoyne 2010 rioters has been jailed for four years, but will only serve 12 months in custody because of his mental health issues.

Ordering that Hugh Booth (26) spend three years on licence following his release, Belfast Crown Court Judge Tom Burgess said various reports compiled on him evidenced long-standing psychiatric issues and that any lengthy term of imprisonment would result in his condition deteriorating.

Booth, from the Cliftonville Road in north Belfast, is the last of 26 defendants who were arrested following hours of rioting involving hundreds of people at the Ardoyne shopfronts on July 12, 2010.

Thousands of missiles including petrol bombs, bricks, stones and bottles were launched at police during eight hours of disturbances which left dozens of officers injured and caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage.

One female officer was seriously injured when a concrete block was dropped on her from the roof of the shops.

A Spanish man was later convicted of that attack.

Booth, who pleaded guilty to rioting and also to throwing a petrol bomb, was seen on CCTV footage playing an "active and persistent" role, initially as part of the sit-down protest but then attacking a police Land Rover, trying to open the rear doors and throwing bricks at it.

His actions culminated in him throwing a petrol bomb, the court heard.

Judge Burgess said that had he sentenced Booth last July as planned, he would have jailed him for four years given the fact that the petrol bomb is a potentially lethal weapon, but that pre-sentence probation and other psychiatric reports evidenced previously undiagnosed psychiatric issues.

They showed that from the age of 19 Booth had been hearing voices in his head, had endured numerous bouts of self-harm and attempted suicide and had inpatient treatment.

The judge said that since being remanded in prison his condition had stabilised with medication and a supportive structure, and that while he was assessed as a medium risk of reoffending, he did not pose any significant risk to members of the public.

Describing the case as an exceptional set of circumstances, Judge Burgess added: "I am satisfied that the defendant's general mental health is not best served by an extended period of custody."

He told Booth, however, that while on his three-year licence programme "it is incumbent on him to engage in this work" and warned him that "any failure... will lead to his licence being revoked and to him being returned to prison for the protection of the public".

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