MAN FOUND GUILTY OF EAST BELFAST RIOT

Police come under attack from loyalists in east Belfast in January

Police come under attack from loyalists in east Belfast in January

A chronic alcoholic has been found guilty by a jury of rioting earlier this year during serious public disorder in east Belfast.

However, the jury found Colin Stewart (40) not guilty of throwing a petrol bomb at police during “heavy and substantial’’ rioting.

The jury at Belfast Crown heard that riot police were called to the Albertbridge Road on January 5 this year where a crowd of around 100 were blocking the road.

Prosecuting counsel Rosemary Walsh told the jury sitting with Judge Gordon Kerr QC that some of the crowd were attacking police with larges pieces of building materials, bricks and bottles.

“A small group of individuals were also armed with petrol bombs which were being thrown at police,’’ she said.

Ms Walsh said that one person, later identified as Stewart, was picked out from a spotter on board a PSNI helicopter approaching police lines and throwing a petrol bomb.

“The man was about to move away when a police officer aimed a shot at the man’s torso. The police officer said the plastic bullet struck the man above his waist on the left hand side.’’

The accused was seen going into a house in Lord Street by the air crew and changing from a khaki coloured puffer jacket into a light coloured jacket.

Prosecuting counsel said officers on the ground were directed by the air support team to arrest the man who they had followed through an onboard infra-red camera into nearby Thorndyke Street.

She said Colin Stewart, of Glenvarnock Street, Belfast, was cautioned and arrested for rioting and throwing a petrol bomb and was taken to Musgrave Street police station for questioning.

The jury was told that en route to the station, Stewart was alleged to have told the arresting police officer: “I might as well put my hands up. I did it.’’

Stewart refused to answer any police questions about his involvement in the riot.

The court heard Stewart was examined by a forensic medical officer after he complained of a pain in his upper left chest area.

The medical officer told the jury that in his opinion the red mark and swelling on Stewart’s chest was “consistent’’ with him being struck with a plastic baton round.

Defence counsel Mark Farrell told the jury that Stewart denied the charges and also denied making the alleged confession in the back of the police landrover.

He said there was no CCTV or forensic evidence to link the defendant to the riot or throwing the petrol bomb at police.

After several hours of deliberations, the jury returned with an unanimous guilty verdict to the charge of rioting.

However, by a majority verdict of 10-1 they found him not guilty of throwing a petrol bomb.

Judge Kerr QC revoked Stewart’s bail and remanded him in custody to be sentenced next month.

 

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