Police move into Short Strand to keep nationalist youths back

Police in east Belfast on January 6 after trouble flared following a Union flag protest at Belfast City Hall

A TEENAGER was told on Tuesday he was lucky he was not being hauled off to prison for his part in rioting in east Belfast in January.

Stephen Ferris, from Matilda Gardens in south Belfast, was charged with rioting following a Union flag protest at Belfast City Hall.

The 19-year-old initially denied involvement when he was first arrested by police from Operation Dulcet, set up by the PSNI to investigate Union flag protests and resulting violence across Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland.

However, Ferris later admitted becoming involved in the riot and throwing missiles.

Ferris was given a two-year custodial term suspended for three years at Belfast Crown Court.

The court heard he had thrown a golf ball at a female riot officer before attacking nationalist homes near Central Station on East Bridge Street.

Ferris 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.

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

Before Tuesday’s sentencing, Ferris had already served three months on remand in Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre.

And a judge him he was “very fortunate” to not be serving any additional period time in prison.

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