Subscribe Now

More than 200 arrested over Union flag protests

Published 04/04/2013

Lesley-Anne McKeown

M OREthan200peoplehavebeenarrestedoverthe Union flag protests, police said yesterday.

Of the 229 people detained as part of Operation Dulcet - the huge drive to bring lawbreakers to justice - 174 were charged with a range of offences including riotous assembly, affray, un-lawful assembly, assault on police and criminal damage.

Sixty-two people have been reported to the Public Prosecution Service, including some who were not arrested.

A further 30 people have been released on bail.

Detective Superintendent Sean Wright said the police investigation had received strong support from the public.

"It is vital that we all send out a mes-sage to those involved in public disor der that such behaviour will not be tolerated," he said.

"Those who break the law must face consequences for their actions. They will be dealt with appropriately and proportionately through the criminal justice system."

The Operation Dulcet team is investigating a broad range of offences including serious rioting, hijacking of vehicles, attacks on politicians' offices, threats made against politicians, unnotified processions and social media-based offences.

Last month Chief Constable Matt Baggott said the cost of policing the ongoing Union flag protests had topped £20 million.

The demonstrations have been held since early December when Belfast City Council voted to limit the number of days the flag flies over the city hall.

A number of protests descended into serious violence and rioting, particularly in east Belfast, with about 140 police officers being injured.

The protests have become more sporadic and less incendiary in recent weeks.

High-profile loyalists Willie Frazer (53), from Co Armagh, and Jamie Bryson (23), from Co Down, were remanded in custody charged with public order offences connected to the protests. Both men have since been released under strict bail conditions.

During the height of the flag crisis death threats were sent to a number of politicians including East Belfast MP Naomi Long of the Alliance Party whose constituency office was picketed by Union flag protesters.