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‘Spiderman’: I cried at top of Belfast's Big Wheel

A man who climbed to the top of Belfast's Big Wheel has been found guilty of disorderly behaviour and aggravated trespass.

Patrick Joyce, a member of the Traveller community, was held to have disrupted the operation of the tourist attraction by scaling 200ft to its summit in a protest over housing rights.

The 38-year-old told a court yesterday he had not cared about the risk of falling to his death, and would do same thing again.

But a prosecutor accused him of showing no concern for the five people trapped in pods for nearly three hours as the drama unfolded in the grounds of City Hall last June.

During highly charged exchanges at Belfast Magistrates Court, Terence Mallon referred to previous incidents where Joyce climbed a crane and hung from a motorway flyover.

Mr Mallon said: “Do you think you are some kind of Travelling Spiderman? Just to get publicity for your rights you are going to do these sort of activities?”

After Joyce described Spiderman as a different sort of man to him, the barrister replied: “He helped the community.”

The father-of-five will be sentenced next month after reports are prepared.

Joyce claimed to have acted after suffering years of racist abuse and attacks. He said he wanted to highlight the accommodation problems of Travellers who staged a six-day occupation at the gates of City Hall.

“When I was up on that wheel I cried my heart out,” he told the court. “I looked down at those caravans and they were cut to bits. Every night people were banging on them and shouting ‘dirty gypsies'.”

Joyce said he wanted to show the world that the Government and Housing Executive were doing nothing for his people. “They just want to push them to the side and leave them like trash in the bin,” he told defence lawyer Mark O'Connor.

“When I was up on top of that wheel I didn't care if I fell or not. It must have been God that saved me because God knows I'm not a bad person.

“If I had fallen (I thought) now they will have to give my kids a proper home.”

Earlier, Richard Stewart, a security guard on duty at the wheel at the time, told of his astonishment at seeing Mr Joyce begin his ascent. “To be quite honest, I was staring in disbelief,” he recalled.

District Judge George Conner convicted him of disorderly behaviour by shouting and taking off his clothes, and aggravated trespass through disruption.

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