Northern Ireland

Police Land Rover 'dancer' James Clarke jailed

Belfast Magistrates' Court
Image caption Belfast Magistrates' Court heard Clarke was part of a crowd gathered in the Woodvale area.

A man knocked unconscious by a water cannon as he danced on top of a police Land Rover has been jailed for five months.

James Clarke was blasted off the vehicle's roof amid serious Twelfth of July disorder in north Belfast.

The 41-year-old, of Woodvale Avenue in the city, had also earlier kicked out at police lines.

He pleaded guilty to riotous behaviour after being shown CCTV footage of the street trouble.

Belfast Magistrates' Court heard Clarke was part of a crowd gathered in the Woodvale area following a ban on an Orange Order parade going past the nearby nationalist Ardoyne district.

A prosecution lawyer said he was seen pulling others out of the way so he could get at police.

He kicked out at Police Service of Northern Ireland shields before climbing up onto a Land Rover parked at the scene.

A defence solicitor said Clarke regretted his actions but had little memory of the incident because it happened amid a 12-hour drinking binge.

"Foolishly he became involved and he ended up standing on top of a Land Rover," the lawyer said.

"He was essentially dancing on the Land Rover in an inebriated state. He wasn't throwing missiles.

"The water cannon actually lifted him off his feet. He was knocked unconscious and immediately conveyed to hospital, sustaining a laceration to the head.

"His next memory is of waking up in hospital."

Despite his lawyer's submissions, District Judge Fiona Bagnall ruled that Clarke's behaviour and level of aggression warranted an immediate prison sentence.

Imposing a five-month jail term, she said: "Anybody who goes out and gets involved in these circumstances in this community knows exactly what they are getting into and have to take full responsibility."

Clarke is expected to mount an appeal against the sentence. He was later granted bail pending his appeal hearing listed for next week.