Police helicopter helped trap Ardoyne republican rioter

PSNI helicopter

PSNI helicopter

A Belfast man was jailed for a year yesterday for his part in a republican riot following an Orange Order parade two years ago.

John Joseph Russell, 23, pleaded guilty at Belfast Crown Court to rioting and possessing a petrol bomb in suspicious circumstances.

A prosecution lawyer told the court that trouble flared on the evening of July 12, 2011 after an Orange Order parade had passed through the Ardoyne area of north Belfast.

She said Russell, of Herbert Street, Ardoyne, was part of a crowd who attacked police lines with “missiles, stones, lumps of concrete, bottles, fireworks and petrol bombs’’ at Brompton Park and Estoril Park.

Russell was captured on CCTV footage before the riot started walking round the area without a mask.

However, as the riot erupted, police spotters identified him wearing a balaclava over his face and carrying a bag containing tins of beer.

“He was seen throwing stones on two occasions and he also had a petrol bomb in his hand,” said the Crown lawyer.

“He was an active participant in the riot. This was aggravated by the fact that he had a petrol bomb and he was wearing a balaclava.’’

The court heard Russell later left the scene and a PSNI helicopter directed officers on the ground to arrest him hiding in the garden of a house nearby.

Judge Corinne Philpott QC was told that Russell still had the petrol bomb with him when he was arrested by police.

During police interview, Russell admitted being involved in the riot and told police he was given the balaclava by others to wear.

A defence barrister claimed Russell had been drinking alcohol and taking drugs at the time of the riot and had little recollection of the incident.

She said that a month before the riot he had attempted to take his own life and he had made a further suicide attempt in August this year.

She said he was suffering from severe mental health issues following two stabbings, one of which was sectarian.

The court heard that, during one of the incidents, he suffered 11 stab wounds.

Judge Philpott said: “This is a bad situation of rioting. He was involved in rioting, he had a petrol bomb and petrol bombs were being used. This is not great. I have sentenced one person to 15 months for kicking a riot shield.’’

However, the judge said that she was taking into account his early plea, his ongoing mental health issues, the fact that he was drug free and was taking steps to stay clear of alcohol and drugs.

Russell was sentenced to three years, with one year in custody and the remainder on licence following his release.


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