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Man jailed for throwing stones at cops during Somme commemoration riot




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A man who ditched his pink T-shirt in an effort to escape arrest for throwing stones at police during a riot after a Somme commemoration parade was today jailed for three years.

Ordering 21-year-old Craig-Lee Williamson to spend 18 months in custody and 18 months on supervised licence conditions, the Recorder of Belfast Judge David McFarland said he did not know "what the people who died in the Somme would have thought" of his activities.

The Belfast Crown Court judge added however that "their heroics are sullied by you and others by throwing stones at the police".

Williamson, from Victor Place in Belfast, had pleaded guilty to a single charge of rioting on July 2 last year.

Prosecuting lawyer John O'Neill told the court that after the Somme commemoration parade in east Belfast had passed off peacefully, crowds totalling around 250 gathered at the Mountpottinger Road and Castlereagh Street areas, describing them as "recognised interface areas".

Although community representatives managed to keep order for a time, people began throwing missiles at unprotected police.

Those officers however were replaced by cops from the Tactical Support Group wearing full riot gear but they were "pelted with missiles" including bricks, bottles and fireworks.

Mr O'Neill said while there were "evidence gathering" teams in place with video cameras, a police inspector saw Williamson breaking up large pieces of masonry which he then threw at police with the crowd "cheering" every time he did so.

As police moved forward Williamson ran off, ditching his "distinctive" pink T-shirt under a car, initially managing to evade arrest.

But he was spotted around half an hour later, still bare-chested, and after another short chase was caught and arrested.

During police questioning Williamson denied involvement but later pleaded guilty to a charge of riot and the lawyer revealed that at the time, Williamson was subject to a suspended sentence for a riot in 2010.

Defence lawyer Jonathan Connelly submitted that Williamson "does have regret and remorse" for getting involved and added that had he been sober, he would not have thrown anything.

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