Union flag protester acquitted of assaulting police officer
A prominent union flag protester was acquitted today of assaulting a police officer at a demonstration in Belfast.
Progressive Unionist Party representative Jonathan Harvey was also cleared of disorderly behaviour and resisting police charges.
The 31-year-old had been accused of pushing a senior officer following a verbal exchange in the east of the city last December.
Protesters had assembled on the Newtownards Road to show opposition to the decision to limit the flying of the union flag at Belfast City Hall.
Mr Harvey, of Lendrick Street in the city, was not part of the gathering but arrived in the area to meet his father.
Belfast Magistrates' Court heard he agreed to speak with police as a community representative in a bid to defuse tensions.
It was claimed that an officer told his father he should be "watching the f****** Glens" football team instead.
Mr Harvey told how he challenged the disputed remark, describing the officer as "a disgrace", but denied police claims that he pushed anyone.
According to his account he was then grabbed and dragged to a PSNI Land Rover, with fingers put into his mouth in a fish-hook manoeuvre.
A woman who witnessed the incident told defence barrister Michael Boyd she was amazed at what happened.
"All of a sudden we heard a police officer shouting about the f****** Glens," she told the court.
"I heard Jonny say you're a disgrace and next thing he was grabbed and trailed around behind the wagon."
After hearing both sides District Judge Ken Nixon dismissed all charges against Mr Harvey.
He pointed out how proof beyond all reasonable doubt was required for a conviction.
Following his acquittal Mr Harvey spoke of his relief and vowed to take a complaint to the Policing Board.
He said: "I'm glad justice has been done because I think the loyalist community has felt the system has been against them in cases where people have been caught up in things and arrested without having done anything wrong.
"This will be a confidence booster to the loyalist community."
The PUP man revealed that a complaint he lodged with the Police Ombudsman was not upheld.
But he pledged: "I plan to make representations to members of the Policing Board about policing and justice."