A man who took a “full and active part” in rioting during an anti-internment parade last summer has been jailed for two and a half years.
John Joseph Burns, 24, of Rospenna Street, Belfast, had pleaded guilty to charges of rioting on August 9, 2015 and causing criminal damage to a PSNI Land Rover on the same date.
The father of one was told by Judge Gordon Kerr QC that he will spend 15 months in custody and a further 15 months on licence following his release.
Prosecutor Simon Jenkins told Belfast Crown Court that “violent disorder’’ erupted at Rosapenna Street during an anti-internment parade.
“Police came under sustained attack from people throwing masonry, bottles and petrol bombs and nine police officers were injured during the violence. A water cannon had to be deployed,’’ said Mr Jenkins.
“Riot police on foot were kicked and punched by rioters.’’
The court heard that Burns was captured on CCTV footage rioting at various times during a period of around an hour and a half.
“He was seen on the footage throwing a number of missiles and masonry in the middle of the road and was captured punching and kicking at police and their shields before walking into his home address at Rosapenna Street.
“He was also seen damaging a wing mirror on a police Land Rover. At times throughout the disorder he did cover his face and had his hood up.
“However, on other occasions his face could be seen on the footage and he was wearing distinctive clothing.’’
Judge Kerr was told that Burns was arrested on September 25 last year and during police interviews he denied rioting and claimed he had “never left his garden” during the disorder.
“When the footage was shown to him he replied ‘no comment’ to police questions.’’
Mr Jenkins added that Burns had 24 previous convictions.
Defence barrister Sean O’Hare said that by his guilty plea Burns “accepts his responsibility” for his actions.
He added that Burns had consumed alcohol on the day and said he had ongoing mental health issues.
Mr O’Hare said the defendant, who had suffered a recent family bereavement, was now a full-time carer for his three-year-old child after the child’s mother and his former partner had to leave the area following a threat to her life.
Judge Kerr stated that if the case had gone to trial and Burns had been convicted, he would have imposed a sentence of five years.
The judge said he could only give Burns a discount of 25 per cent for his plea as he had been “literally caught red handed’’ on CCTV.