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Thug who 'tagged' himself in picture of rioters hurling missiles at police is jailed

By Ashleigh McDonald

Published 08/04/2016

A rioter who identified himself on social media has been handed a two-year sentence
A rioter who identified himself on social media has been handed a two-year sentence

A rioter who identified himself on social media has been handed a two-year sentence.

Robert Darragh, from Hopewell Crescent in the Shankill area of Belfast, was held after 'tagging' himself at the scene of disorder in the Woodvale area last July.

He will spend half his sentence in prison with the remainder served on licence.

Trouble flared in the area after the Parades Commission banned a loyalist flute band from passing the Ardoyne shops on July 13.

A total of 29 police were injured in the subsequent violence, with officers pelted with bricks and other items. One of the victims almost lost an ear.

Crown prosecutor Simon Jenkins told Belfast Crown Court CCTV had captured 20-year-old Darragh in the area on the night.

Mr Jenkins added that the defendant had been observed throwing missiles at police lines "on numerous occasions". He was also spotted hurling items obtained from an overturned bin.

During the violence, Darragh covered his face and put a hood up in a bid to disguise his appearance. However, before getting involved in the riot, he was pictured sitting on a wall with his face uncovered.

Mr Jenkins said that following the melee, police trawled through social media and discovered that Darragh had tagged himself as the man sitting on the wall and as one of the males rioting on the Woodvale Road.

When he was arrested and interviewed, the defendant claimed he had been drinking heavily on the day. While he admitted being in the area, he said he could not remember throwing anything at police lines.

He also accepted that he was the man pictured sitting on the wall, but refused to admit he was the offender pictured rioting, despite the two images showing a man wearing identical clothes. However, Darragh subsequently admitted a single charge of rioting.

Defence barrister Michael Boyd accepted that his client was "one of a handful of individuals in front of that crowd involved in throwing missiles at police lines from a short distance".

Mr Boyd added there was "nothing to suggest any police officer was injured as a result of anything" Darragh did.

The barrister said that when questioned by police about his involvement, his client claimed to be unable to remember what had happened because he had been on a three-day drinking binge.

Darragh also expressed shame for his actions during police interviews, with Mr Boyd revealing that his family were "appalled and disgusted by his actions".

Mr Boyd concluded by saying his client "does not have a sectarian bone in his body" but "allowed himself to get caught up with a group of people he knew", which resulted in him acting in an "outrageous way".

Passing sentence, Judge Gordon Kerr QC said Northern Ireland has been "plagued" by riots resulting in police officers sustaining injuries and those responsible being sent to jail.

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