Northern Ireland

Judge says flags protest disorder is 'thuggish rioting'

Disorder linked to ongoing loyalist flag protests is "thuggish rioting" that puts police officers lives at risk, a High Court judge has said.

Mr Justice McCloskey hit out at the violence after hearing allegations that a teenager threw bricks at officers in the Sandy Row area on 7 December.

Johnathan McClelland, 18, of Tavanagh Street, Belfast, faces a single charge of riotous behaviour.

He is accused of being among a crowd that pelted police with missiles.

McClelland was arrested and later admitted his involvement, the court heard.

Seeking bail, defence barrister Dennis Boyd said his client had gone to the scene to join others in a peaceful protest.

"He very foolishly got himself caught up and involved himself," Mr Boyd said.

He added that McClelland has enrolled in a joinery training course in a bid to find work.

Mr Justice McCloskey adjourned the application until more details are supplied on the course.

But he also took issue with the use of the word 'protest' in the case.

"Protest in its correct sense denotes something lawful, responsible, measured and properly motivated," the judge said.

"The reality of the vast majority of this kind of behaviour is that it is thuggish rioting, there is no other way of approaching it.

"The second reality is that those who choose to throw a single missile in the vicinity of police officers expose the potential victim to possible very serious injury and, indeed, in the most acute cases, loss of life."