Rioter ‘mistakes’ petrol bombs for bag of booze after drinking 12 cans of lager
A man who claimed to have picked up a bag of petrol bombs thinking it was alcohol has admitted to rioting at a peace line.
Jonathan Maitland drank 12 cans of harp before heading to the scene of the riot after viewing Facebook images, Belfast Crown Court heard.
The 25-year-old pleaded guilty to three counts after taking part in violent sectarian clashes in the city in April last year.
He was arrested during riots on the Lanark Way Peace Line near Shankill Road, west of the city.
Unrest had broken out following a loyalist protest against the Irish Sea border with violence on both sides of the peace line. Maitland was arrested on the loyalist side of the powder keg.
Maitland, of Avoca Street in North Belfast, was charged with rioting, aiding and abetting the throwing of a Molotov cocktail and possession of Molotov cocktails in suspicious circumstances, all on April 8.
At a hearing in city crown court on Tuesday, Maitland pleaded guilty to charges of rioting and aiding and abetting the throwing of Molotov cocktails.
He pleaded not guilty to the charge of possessing gasoline bombs and the judge agreed to leave that on the books.
The case was adjourned until February 25 for sentencing with a pre-sentence report ordered and Maitland released on continuing bail.
When Maitland first appeared in city magistrates court on the charges on April 10 last year, his attorney told the court that he provided police with a full account of his whereabouts until 10:45 p.m. on the evening of the alleged offenses, including alibi witnesses.
The lawyer said Maitland was arrested at 11:05 p.m. and his house was 15 minutes from the scene, which would give him a “very short window of involvement”.
He said Maitland claimed he went to the scene after seeing footage of the riot on Facebook and consuming 12 cans of Harp lager.
The lawyer said Maitland had been there with another man and CCTV footage from the scene showed him picking up a Russell Cellars bag which he said may contain alcohol.
Maitland saw what was in it, but was then approached by a man wearing a balaclava who asked, “Are you going to do something with that?”
He said he wasn’t and the man took it from him, adding that Maitland was not seen throwing anything and could be seen walking away before police got to him. rushes and arrests a number of people.
He explained that Maitland needed a suitable adult when interviewing the police and had been “deeply affected” by his time in police custody.
The riots in west Belfast were part of a series of violent clashes that erupted in cities across Northern Ireland in late March and early April.
It left 90 police officers injured and at one point water cannons had to be deployed to quell the crowds. The loyalist paramilitaries were accused of inciting violence on the pretext that it was a demonstration against the Irish Sea border.
The clashes also came after the prosecution’s decision not to prosecute senior Sinn Fein politicians over alleged Covid breaches at the funeral of IRA leader Bobby Storey.
But at the time, the Loyalist Community Council (LCC) – an umbrella group that includes UVF and UDA leaders – insisted that none of its associated organizations “have been implicated. directly or indirectly in the violence we have witnessed in recent days”.