The mother of a Portadown rioter wept in court yesterday as her son was jailed for three years.
Jailing 27-year-old Graham John Best at Craigavon Crown Court, Judge Patrick Lynch QC declared that “the message must go out that the courts will not tolerate activities of this type”.
“The recurrence of extreme violence and streetfighting is a throwback to the evil days of the 70s and 80s when this was all too persistent and a sad part of life in Northern Ireland,” said the judge.
He added that rioting “must be regarded with the utmost seriousness”.
At the end of his trial earlier this month Best, from Church Street in Portadown, was convicted of rioting on July 14 last year.
During that trial the jury heard how police were caught between two warring factions on Corcraine Road in the town when, as was well as sectarian insults, bricks, bottles and masonry were being hurled.
Best was captured on CCTV cameras as part of a small crowd of “actively participating rioters” throwing a handful of missiles at police.
Defence lawyer Mark Farrell conceded that “an immediate custodial sentence is inevitable” but described the incident as “a low level riot” in comparison to recent events from the ongoing flag protests in Belfast where upwards of 300 people could be involved in serious disturbances for hours with more serious weapons, such as petrol bombs and firearms being used against officers.
Jailing Best for three years, Judge Lynch ordered the rioter to spend half his sentence in jail and the other half on supervised licence conditions.
The judge also imposed a three-month jail sentence, to be served concurrently after Best admitted possessing former legal high but now class B drug NRG2 on August 27, 2012.