A former soldier was one of two rioters to be jailed yesterday after Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland said while individuals had a right to protest, it had to be legal and lawful.
Jailing former soldier Graig Edgar, the Belfast Crown Court judge said he expected more from him given his exemplary background and record, and that he should have dealt with the situation in a more mature and responsible way, despite a certain degree of provocation.
Judge McFarland told Edgar that before being struck, or nearly struck, with a bottle, he had been acting in a perfectly lawful way, but then involved himself in the Newtownards Road riot on July 12 last year.
Those involved in rioting, he added, had to take responsibility not only for their own conduct, but for the collective responsible of all those involved.
The judge said he had looked to see if there were highly exceptional circumstances in his case which would allow him to suspended his 12-month sentence, but could find none.
Solicitor Darren Duncan said but for 23-year-old Edgar, from Tower Street, Belfast, giving himself up to police when his picture appeared in the press, he may not have been identified.
Sentenced with him for two years was 19-year-old Jonathon Burton who admitted involvement in what ended up as a blatantly sectarian incident in Belfast’s city centre following a counter-protest to a rally on August 9 last year, to mark the introduction of internment nearly 40 years ago.
Judge McFarland told Burton, from Tennent Street, Belfast, that there was a need of prison sentences to deter those who would want to engage in rioting, as this type of behaviour cannot and would not be tolerated.