Suspended jail term for rioter who poured beer over officer

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A Belfast man who poured a tin of beer over a police officer during street disorder which erupted last summer has been handed a suspended prison sentence.

The case against Mitchell Preston was heard at Belfast Magistrates’ Court last October, when sentencing on a charge of riotous behaviour was deferred to determine whether or not he could keep out of trouble during this year’s 12th of July marching season.

Preston, 20, from Knockwood Crescent, admitted a charge of riotous behaviour on July 12 last year, when he was captured on police CCTV at a scene of serious street disorder in the Lower Newtownards Road area of the city.

During the civil unrest, police lines were attacked by a “large crowd” of loyalists, and Preston was observed picking up a tin of beer and pouring the contents over an officer before throwing the tin at police lines.

A representative from the PPS said that following the incident, images were released to the media of those involved in the incident that the PSNI wished to speak to. Preston’s image was one of these, prompting him to contact police.

The court heard that during interview, Preston viewed the CCTV and “admitted his behaviour was disgusting”. He also apologised for his actions.

Defence solicitor Conor Houston said that Preston, like so many other young men, came before the court on rioting charges yet then had no criminal records, had good prospects and were from stable family backgrounds.

Telling District Judge Fiona Bagnall that Preston had proved he had “kept out of trouble” during the contentious summer marching season this year, Mr Houston revealed his client is now working with young people within his local community.

Mrs Bagnall handed Preston a three-month prison sentence, which she suspended for two years.