Northern Ireland

Twaddell protest police rammed by motorised wheelchair user

Twaddell camp
Image caption Nightly protests have been held at Twaddell Avenue over the rerouting of an Orange parade

A motorised wheelchair user has been convicted of ramming a policeman during a loyalist protest in north Belfast.

Samuel Baxter trapped the officer's leg against a police vehicle after he was stopped from passing through security lines on Twaddell Avenue, Belfast Magistrates Court heard.

The 53-year-old was also found guilty of disorderly behaviour during one of the nightly demonstrations in the area.

Baxter, of Canmore Close, will be sentenced next month.

'Blood clot'

Police witnesses told the court that one constable suffered a bruised shin in the incident after Baxter repeatedly directed his wheelchair weighing up to 28 stone at them.

Baxter said he was only in the area for family reasons and had no involvement in the protests over a disputed Orange Order parade.

He claimed that he was trying to pass through the police cordon to get his friend who had a blood clot to hospital.

He claimed the officer he was charged with assaulting told him: "Sit down, you're not getting through, OK."

He argued that the constable's flak jacket had caught on his wheelchair's gear stick, causing it to shunt forward about an inch.

'Staged'

A police inspector told the court Baxter was swearing and abusive.

He said the incident was part of attempts to incite a crowd who were filming on their mobile phones.

"This set-up happens on a nightly basis and has done for the past 400-odd nights," he said.

"Things like that are staged to try and rile the crowd up. I was made aware he had come out with a whole crowd round him and their cameras already on."

The inspector said police had been trying to calm the situation.

"We do this protest on a nightly basis. If there was a medical emergency it would have been quite obvious and we would certainly facilitate that," he added.

"When I spoke to this man and gave him numerous chances to tell me what the problem was, he was just extremely verbally abusive and playing to the crowd."

The judge convicted Baxter of both counts of assault on police and disorderly behaviour, and ordered a pre-sentence report to be prepared.

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