Soldier in flag riot shame facing Army dismissal
A promising Army career was left in tatters after a part-time soldier was handed a 15-month suspended jail term for 12 seconds of rioting.
Despite hearing from Major Ronald Semple that any prison sentence, whether suspended or immediate, would result in 22-year-old Edward Lynn being dismissed from the Territorial Army, Belfast Crown Court Judge Gordon Kerr QC told him he could not overlook the fact that he had taken part in serious and widespread disturbances.
Major Semple told the court how Lynn had behaved in an "exemplary fashion" while on duty and had on occasions also behaved "in a manner which was above his rank".
Judge Kerr told Lynn, however: "You made a choice this night and you chose to attack security forces even though you yourself served with credit in the security forces, and for that, I'm afraid, that you have to pay the penalty."
Prosecuting lawyer Robin Steer had told the court earlier that as part of ongoing serious public disorder and rioting as part of the flag protests, police in the Albertbridge Road area of east Belfast had come under attack on January 5 this year.
He described how a crowd of upwards of 100 people were launching bricks, heavy masonry, fireworks and petrol bombs at police and their vehicles and that at one point, as officers tried to deal with a car set on fire, water cannon had been brought up to help protect those officers.
The water cannon came under attack from around 12 stone-throwers and Mr Steer said CCTV not only showed Lynn as part of that crowd, masked with a scarf, but also showed an officer grabbing him as he tried to flee.
Even as Lynn was put into the back of an armoured Land Rover, that vehicle was surrounded by rioters who tried to force open the doors, but, eventually, police managed to leave the scene.
Arrested and interviewed, Lynn claimed his mother-in-law, who lives in east Belfast, had phoned him for help and support so he had gone to her house but had become embroiled in the rioting.
Lynn, from Fenaghy Park in Ballymena, later pleaded guilty to a single charge of rioting.
Solicitor advocate Paul Farrell said Lynn, who is a part-time Ranger in the 2nd Royal Irish, had effectively been ostracised from his family, who had themselves been members of the security forces, adding that Lynn had "expressed his deep, deep shame and what he got himself involved in". He argued that for what was 12 seconds of involvement, Lynn, who served a tour of in Afghanistan, would pay a heavy price, and urged the judge not to send him to prison.
In suspending the 15-month jail term for three years, Judge Kerr said everyone had the right to protest but no one was entitled "to do so violently and not intentionally to try to cause damage and injury to the whole community".