Orangeman is fined over obstructing police bids to identify band

Twaddell Avenue
Twaddell Avenue

An Orangeman was convicted today of obstructing police efforts to identify a flute band breaching a ban on playing music near a loyalist protest camp.

George Patton replaced a sticker covering the name on a bass drum as officers filmed masked band members close to the Twaddell Avenue site in north Belfast.

The 58-year-old defendant, of Glenbryn Parade in the city, was fined £200.

Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard police were gathering evidence at the scene on November 20 last year.

Footage of the incident showed an unidentified band arriving with members wearing balaclavas and masks.

A tune was played in an apparent breach of a Parades Commission prohibition on any music.

Loyalists have been protesting in the area over restrictions imposed on an Orange Order march.

Patton then appeared in the footage wearing a sash and allegedly re-attaching the sticker to the drum.

The defendant, described as an Orange Order marshal, told the court he was only keeping control of the crowd.

Under cross-examination he likened the gathering to a feeder parade to show Orangemen are entitled “to get back home”.

Prosecutor John O’Neill put it to him that bands taking part in Twelfth of July demonstrations and other major events don’t normally wear balaclavas.

“They have emblems, standards and don’t cover their faces because they are proud of what they area doing and want people to know who they are,” the lawyer said.

He told Patton: “You helped them because the paper came off and you stuck it back on as police are trying to gather evidence.”

Insisting he had done nothing wrong, the defendant claimed the band’s name could be seen before he acted.

But District Judge Amanda Henderson backed the prosecution’s contention that Patton was guilty of trying to obstruct police.

Defence solicitor Keith Gamble stressed that his client had been trying to prevent trouble.

“By virtue of that he ends of putting himself in harms way,” he said.

Imposing the £200 fine, Judge Henderson told Patton that as a steward he must not overstep the mark.