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Man assaulted policeman by ramming him with wheelchair at loyalist protest on Twaddell Avenue


Loyalists hold a white line protest at Twaddell Avenue

Loyalists hold a white line protest at Twaddell Avenue

Loyalists hold a white line protest at Twaddell Avenue

A motorised wheelchair user was convicted today of assaulting a policeman by ramming him at a loyalist protest in north Belfast.

Samuel Baxter trapped the officer's leg against a Landrover after becoming angry and hostile at being denied access through security lines on Twaddell Avenue, a court heard.

The 53-year-old was also found guilty of disorderly behaviour during one of the nightly demonstrations staged in the area.

Baxter, of Canmore Close in the city, will be sentenced next month.

Police witnesses told Belfast Magistrates' Court he had repeatedly directed a wheelchair weighing up to 28 stone at them on January 23.

One Constable suffered bruising to his shin in the incident.

Baxter said he was only in the area for family reasons and had no involvement in protests being staged over a disputed Orange Order parade.

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He claimed to be trying to pass through the police cordon to get his friend to hospital for a medical emergency.

But an Inspector testified that the defendant was swearing and abusive.

"During the course of the interaction he rammed his wheelchair into the front of my officers who were standing there," he said.

According to the senior officer the incident was part of attempts to incite a crowd filming the incident on mobile phones.

After the defendant had moved off the Inspector claimed someone else shouted: "I hope the IRA blow your legs off."

Cross-examined by defence counsel Kelly Doherty, he claimed the incident had been staged.

"This set-up happens on a nightly basis and has done for the past 400-odd nights," he replied.

"Things like that are staged to try and rile the crowd up. I was made aware he had come out with a whole crowd round him and their cameras already on."

The Inspector insisted police had been trying to calm the situation.

"We do this protest on a nightly basis. If there was a medical emergency it would have been quite obvious and we would certainly facilitate that," he added.

"When I spoke to this man and gave him numerous chances to tell me what the problem was he was just extremely verbally abusive and playing to the crowd."

Baxter told the court he was trying to help his friend get to hospital for treatment on a blood clot.

He claimed the officer he was charged with assaulting told him: "F***ing sit down, you're not getting through, ok."

The constable leaned over him and got his flak jacket on his wheelchair's gear stick, causing it to shunt forward about an inch, according to his evidence.

When a prosecutor put to Baxter that he had driven into the victim up to four times, he replied: "I did not ram anybody."

But after hearing all the evidence District Judge Ken Nixon convicted him on both counts of assault on police and disorderly behaviour.

Mr Nixon ordered a pre-sentence report to be prepared in the case.

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