THREE republican rioters who admitted their involvement in serious public disorder at the Ardoyne shop fronts last summer have been jailed for a total of even and a half years.
Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland told Paul Faulkner, Brian Gavin and Daniel Neill they may wish to reflect on the fact that they are going to jail while the instigators and organisers “stand back and allow you, literally, as cannon fodder to become involved”.
Earlier he heard how PSNI officers came under attack from rioting crowds at the interface area of Twadell Avenue and Brompton Park following the annual Twelfth of July Orange Order march.
Prosecuting lawyer Philip Henry described how crowds of up to 150 on either side of the divide attacked police.
Officers came under sustained attack from a hail of missiles including bricks, bottles, masonry and stones.
But more alarmingly a pipe bomb was thrown and ten live rounds were fired from a “high velocity semi automatic rifle”.
In total, he told the court that:
* 23 officers were injured during nine hours of rioting;
* £15,500 worth of damage was caused to police equipment;
* it cost £204,000 for the PSNI to police the riot.
Turning to the roles of each of the defendants, Mr Henry said both 19-year-old Gavin, from Woodside Park in Dunmurry and Neill, 20, from Newington Street in Belfast, were described by police as being “one of the most prolific offenders” in the riot.
Gavin tried to hide his face with a scarf but it slipped down a number of times and he was able to be identified from CCTV footage as throwing bricks and other similar missiles for around a four-hour period and was also part of a group who tried to push a hijacked car at police lines.
He pleaded guilty to riot and causing criminal damage by arson.
Mr Henry said Neill had tried to hide his face by pulling his hoodie over his head but that he was also seen throwing numerous missiles and a firework at police and also throwing a burning piece of wood into the back of an already burning Citroen car.
He pleaded guilty to offences of riot and arson. He conceded that 31-year-old Faulker, from Queen’s Parade in Belfast, was at the lower end of the scale compared to his co-accused in that he only threw two stones at police and later pleaded guilty to a single charge of riot.
Sentencing the trio, Judge McFarland handed Faulkner a two-year jail term, Neill a term of two and a half years and Gavin a three-year term, ordering that each of the three serve half their sentences in custody and half on licence.
The judge added that it was important to note since the marching season was just beginning that anyone who involves themselves in a riot, “except in the most exceptional circumstances,” will go to prison.