Belfast Telegraph

Teen rioter who threw golf ball at female cop walks free from court

A teenage rioter who threw a golf ball at a female riot cop before attacking nationalist homes has walked free from court after his two year custodial term was suspended for three years.

Belfast Crown Court heard that 19-year-old Stephen Ferris had joined the city centre flag protest at City Hall on January 13 this year but instead of going back to his home in the other side of the city, walked with a crowd of protesters towards east Belfast.

Prosecuting lawyer Gareth Purvis told the court trouble erupted near Central Station on East Bridge Street when the crowd met a line of riot police and Land Rovers blocking their way.

Ferris, he said, was seen throwing a golf ball at a female officer from around four feet away but thankfully, she was able to deflect it with her shield.

He was also seen joining in with a crowd of around 70 rioters throwing various missiles including bricks, bottles and masonry at nationalist homes in the Short Strand area.

Although Ferris, from Matilda Gardens in south Belfast, denied involvement when initially arrested, he later admitted becoming involved and throwing missiles during later police interviews.

Ferris pleaded guilty to a single charge of riot last month.

His defence lawyer said Ferris himself conceded he had "made the biggest mistake of his life" by taking part in the riot. 

"It was a stupid and foolish act in his behalf which he now has to face the consequences for," he told the court adding that Ferris had learned and "salutary lesson" by spending three months in custody in remand.

Handing down the suspended sentence, Judge Corinne Philpott QC  told Ferris he was "very fortunate to have this opportunity - you will not get it again."


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