A 38-year-old man is to appear in court on Monday morning with possessing a firearm on Saturday.

Car on fire in east Belfast on Sunday night

Car on fire in east Belfast on Sunday night

Detectives from the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch charged the man with possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, riotous behaviour and failing to remove a disguise when requested by a constable.

The man was originally arrested for attempted murder of police officers on duty in the lower Newtownards Road.

Trouble broke out in the east of the city on Saturday as protestors, who attended an earlier peaceful flags march through the centre of Belfast, returned home to the east.

Missiles were thrown from the Nationalist side in the Short Strand. Loyalist protestors then became embroiled in street violence.

Riot officers battled serious disorder for several hours, before it was contained.

There have been protests, and street violence, throughout Northern Ireland since the passing of a motion at Belfast City Council to only fly the Union Flag on designated days from City Hall one month ago.

On Sunday night, police dealt with a fourth night of trouble in east Belfast, however it was on a much smaller scale.

Loyalists claim a protest ended peacefully.

“The protest was over and protestors were having a bit of banter with police whcn a golf ball came from the Short Strand striking one officer on the head,” said a source.

“That’s what kicked off the trouble from loyalists NOT protestors.”

Five men and a 16-year-old boy accused of riot, including an alleged ringleader and a petrol bomber, were remanded into custody after a special sitting of Belfast Magistrates’ Court.

Loyalist protesters in east Belfast on Sunday night

Loyalist protesters in east Belfast on Sunday night

Before the court began for the first time ever on a Sunday, defence barrister Mark Farrell had argued the court had no jurisdiction under a rule of “Sunday observance” – but District Judge George Conner ruled there was an exception for offences of breaching the peace.

Dealt with separately, the first man to appear was 45-year-old self-employed computer consultant Peter Weir, from Laurelbank Avenue in Newtownards, who was charged with a single count of rioting on Saturday 5 January.

Weir, who appeared in the dock in what appeared to be a flute band polo shirt, did not asked for bail and so, was remanded into custody until Thursday.

Next to appear was 21-year-old Edward Lynn, a coach builder from Fenaghy Park in Ballymena, also accused of a single charge of rioting.

A detective police constable told the court he believed he could connect him to the charge and in objecting to a bail application, described how Lynn was seen in a crowd of around ten people throwing masonry and other missiles at police.

Judge Conner refused the appplication, saying while it was a “difficult case,” it was a very serious offence arising out of serious disorder which “is why the court is sitting today” and remanded Lynn into custody to appear again via videolink this Thursday.

Alleged “ringleader” 52-year-old William Kerr, from Station Road in Belfast, was next into court to face a charge of riot.

Connecting him to the charge and objecting to bail, the PSNI officer described how he was part of a crowd which had surrounded a police landrover, shaking it from side to side as he “shouted and swore” at officer inside and motioned for others to join in.

Again, Judge Conner refused bail despite defence submissions that Kerr, in fact, was trying to remonstrate with rioters and similarly, he was remanded into custody until Thursday.

Paul Spence, a 43-year-old car park attendant from Tamery Pass in Belfast, was charged with riot and causing criminal damage to a police landrover.

He did not ask for bail and like his co-accused, was remanded into custody to appear again on Thursday.

Alleged petrol bomber 42-year-old Glenn Stewart, from Glenvarlock Street, off Castlereagh Road in the city, is charged with rioting as well as throwing and possessing a petrol bomb.

He did ask for bail, however, and an officer described how police were under attack in the Lord Street area by a crowd throwing petrol bombs.

They responded by firing a baton round and the officer alleged this had struck Stewart on the left collar bone, adding that when arrested and processed, officers noted an injury there and that he allegedly made a “significant comment” of: “I might as well put my hands up – I did it.”

Refusing the application and remanding Stewart into custody until Thursday, Judge Conner said of all the cases on Sunday he faced the most serious charges and commented there was “just too high a risk of reoffending”.

A 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, also appeared before the court.

As an officer told the court he believed he could connect the youth to the charge, the boy’s mother wept quietly in the public gallery.

No bail application was lodged on his behalf and he was also remanded to appear again via videolink on Thursday.




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