Belfast Telegraph

Female Union Flag rioter given four month sentence for attacking policewoman

By Alan Erwin

A female rioter who attacked a policewoman during disorder surrounding the union flag protests was given a four-month suspended jail term today.

Laura Nicholl was also put on two years probation for kicking another PSNI officer and spitting in his face during a separate incident.

A judge imposed the sentences after being told of Nicholl's attempts to look after her potentially suicidal sister.

But the 20-year-old was warned that any further offences would result in her being jailed.

Nicholl, of  Unity Street, Carrickfergus, was convicted of riotous behaviour, assaulting a female officer and resisting arrest.

She had thrown missiles at police as trouble flared at North Road in the town on December 5.

The violence came just days after the decision was taken to restrict the flying of the union flag at Belfast City Hall.

During attempts to arrest her Nicholl struggled and struck out an officer on her helmet.

In a separate incident two months later she was arrested after police were called to deal with six people fighting in the street at Schomberg Court, Carrick.

She was charged with assault on police and disorderly behaviour.

Belfast Magistrates' Court heard Nicholl kicked a policeman in the leg and spat in his face.

Then, last month, she was further charged with criminal damage to her electronic monitoring tag.

Nicholl claimed she had cut the device off and thrown it away while drunk.

Defence solicitor Sarah McKeown argued that her client had not become involved in any further flag-related disorder after being arrested at one of the first outbreaks.

Ms McKeown also set out Nicholl's troubled family background and her attempts to get into Hydebank detention centre to check on a sister who has tried to take her own life.

Her arm had to be stapled together after one attempt, the court heard.

According to the lawyer Nicholl's request was refused because prison authorities said they could not tell the two women apart.

Passing sentence, District Judge Fiona Bagnall acknowledged the sisters' circumstances.

She imposed a four month prison term, suspended for 18 months, for the riotous behaviour and assault on police.

Judge Bagnall ordered Nicholl to serve two years on probation for the second assault and disorderly behaviour, with a concurrent one-year term for criminal damage to the tag.

She warned her lawyer: "She knows she faces custody again if she re-offends."

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