A Co Armagh teenager involved in a loyalist riot has walked free from court after a judge said the case met the test of “highly exceptional circumstances’’.
Glen Ivan Alan Singleton, 19, of Thornhill Crescent, Tandragee, pleaded guilty to rioting on August 9, 2013 when loyalists blocked a republican anti-internment protest in Belfast city centre.
Judge Paul Ramsey QC said he was suspending Singleton’s 12-month sentence for three years, stating that his detention would have a “significant impact’’ on the health of his mother and younger brother.
Prosecution lawyer Joseph Murphy told Belfast Crown Court on Tuesday that serious street disorder erupted in the centre of Belfast on the evening of August 9 after loyalists mounted a protest about an internment parade which was due oo make its way from Alliance Aveue to west Belfast via Royal Avenue.
A group of protestors gathered at the Royal Avenue/North Street junction and when trouble broke out, it spread to the nearby Carrick Hill and Peters Hill area.
Mr Murphy said 58 police officers were injured and seven people were arrested. Police deployed water cannon and a number of plastic baton rounds were fired.
The court heard that Singleton’s involvement in the riot started at 7.04pm and lasted for a total of 37 minutes during which he threw one stone, a brick, was involved in a sit-down protest and also climbed on top of a bus shelter.
He was arrested in February after attending for voluntary interview and the court heard he made “full and frank admissions’’ to the offences.
Trainee bricklayer Singleton told interviewing officers: “I accept that’s me. I had just turned 18. I was foolish. I have let myself down, my family down. I am scared about the consequences.’’
Judge Ramsey said he received a “large number of testimonies and references’’ relating to Singleton’s previous good character which stated that he was “very remorseful and ashamed” for his actions.
One of those references came from former DUP MLA Paul Berry who said he had known the defendant for six years through the teenager’s work with youth groups and cross-community work.
Mr Berry wrote: “I was greatly shocked by his involvement in this particular matter.’’
The court heard Singleton’s younger brother Ryan suffered from learning difficulties and ADHT (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
A teacher at his brother’s school said Singleton had been a great influence in helping his brother overcome his difficulties.
A report was also handed in from a doctor who said Singleton’s mother’s long-term depressive mood had worsened since her son’s arrest and “was anxious about how she would cope’’ if he was jailed.
The judge said that given all the information in front of him, he believed the case had met the threshold of “highly exceptional circumstances’’.
He said: “Accordingly, I will impose a sentence of 12 months imprisonment but I will suspend that sentence for three years. If you stay out of trouble for the next three years, and I think you will given your previous good character, you will hear no more about this matter.”