Spaniard jailed for throwing concrete block at police officer during July 12 riots
Published 05/07/2011 | 04:25
A Spanish student who injured a female police officer during the "orgy of violence" at the Ardoyne shopfronts on July 12th last year has been sent to prison for four years.
But there has been no explanation as to how the politics and journalism graduate from Barcelona came to be involved in the disturbances in the first place.
Jailing 29-year-old Rodger Jarro Costa at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Tom Burgess told him that his "cowardly attack" was in stark contrast to the bravery and resilience shown by the female police constable who was struck on the head with a piece of masonry.
Praising the officer, the judge revealed that earlier in the day she had been hit with a petrol bomb and that colleagues had to extinguish the flames which threatened to engulf her.
Despite that attack and being struck by the concrete, she still wanted to stay in the line with her colleagues in an effort to restore order.
The judge described how Costa, with an address at Ulsterville Avenue in south Belfast, was at the "forefront" of the serious disturbances.
Judge Burgess said the Spaniard had intentionally armed himself and thrown several pieces of heavy masonry at police with the intention of injuring them, and that despite pleas from friends for him to stop he had continued and had even "applauded and encouraged the violence of others".
He said Costa was lucky not to be facing more serious charges as he could easily have caused fatal injuries to the female officer, who was in a "vulnerable position" below the shopfronts.
Costa was originally charged with trying to murder the officer, but he pleaded guilty to a charge of riot and of attempting to cause her grievous bodily harm.
Judge Burgess told him the Northern Ireland community had welcomed him in, but that their welcome "has been poorly repaid".
And he added that he could not hand down a jail term which would allow the Spaniard to go home in the near future, as "he still owes a debt to our society".
Costa's parents had flown from Spain to be present at his sentencing but they left without talking to the media, and there has been no explanation for his involvement in the rioting.
Judge Burgess revealed that damage to cars in the area amounted to £22,000, damage to police clothing and equipment came to nearly £9,000, and that the total cost of policing the riot was nearly £800,000.
The judge said that as well as the financial cost as regards damage and injuries, "foremost are the interests of the residents of this area".
He also issued a warning that anyone who involves themselves in rioting will face "condign punishment".
Among others connected to the rioting sentenced yesterday was 27-year-old Paul Donegan, from Dunclug Gardens in Ballymena, who pleaded guilty to a single charge of rioting in that he was seen to throw bricks and stones as well as kick out at a police shield.
Donegan was handed an eight-month jail term.
Belfast man 20-year-old Christopher McKeating, from Hawthorn Glen in the Hannahstown area of west Belfast, also pleaded guilty to a single charge of riot and Judge Burgess handed him a 10-month jail term.