SPECIAL sittings of Belfast Magistrates Court to deal with loyalist-riot accused are the first time late-night courts have been called to deal with civil unrest since the Good Friday Agreement.
A special court sat late into the night on Saturday to deal with 11 men and two women charged in connection with violence in the Newtownards Road area of east Belfast following a protest at city hall earlier in the day.
Yesterday a barrister argued that a special court called to deal with five further accused had no jurisdiction under a rule of 'Sunday observance'.
However, District Judge George Conner ruled there was an "exception for offences of breaching the peace."
All but one of the 18 accused to be charged over the weekend was remanded in custody.
On Saturday evening Jane Leatham from Trillick Street in east Belfast was granted bail after the court was told that she is suffering from cancer and may require surgery later this week.
Leatham cried in the dock as an officer said she had been observed throwing masonry at police vehicles on Saturday. She was released on £500 bail.
Among those remanded in custody was Polish national, Krystof Kutcha (28) of Ravensdale Court who was accused of riotous assembly.
Kurtis Kenna (21) Ardenvor Street was accused of throwing a petrol bomb, riotous behaviour and possession of an offensive weapon.
Stephen Thompson (38) of Templemore Street was charged with making threats to kill and assault on police.
Thomas Rattray (42) from St Leonard's Street is accused of indecent behaviour, and riotous behaviour.
Emma Topping (27) of Beechfield Street was charged with riotous behaviour along with 28-year-old William Adair of Loopland Road who was accused of possessing a laser pen in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft.
Paul McCaughey (20) from Gotha Street was charged with possession of a class B drug and riotous assembly.
Father-of-four Brian McCrum (21) from Tower Street was accused of throwing a bottle at police.
David Henry McDonald (44) of Emerald Street was accused of riotous behaviour.
Neil Nelson (27) from City Way in south Belfast was accused of riotous behaviour as was 39-year-old Justin Lundy of Madrid Street.
Yesterday afternoon there was a further special sitting of Belfast magistrates court to deal with five more accused.
Self-employed computer consultant Peter Weir (45) from Laurelbank Avenue in Newtownards was charged with a single count of rioting on Saturday January 5.
Weir, dressed in a flute band polo shirt was remanded into custody until Thursday.
Edward Lynn, a 21-year-old coach builder from Fenaghy Park in Bally-mena was also accused of a single charge of rioting.
A Detective Constable told the court he believed he could connect him to the charge claiming Lynn was seen in a crowd of around ten people throwing masonry and other missiles at police.
Police then alleged that 52-year-old William Kerr from Station Road in Belfast was a "ringleader" of the rioters and part of a crowd which had surrounded a police land rover, shaking it from side to side as he motioned for others to join in.
Paul Spence, a 43-year-old car park attendant from Tamery Pass in Belfast was charged with riot and causing criminal damage to a police land rover.
Alleged petrol bomber 42-year-old Glenn Stewart from Glenvarlock Street was charged with rioting as well as throwing and possessing a petrol bomb during disturbances in the Lord Street area.
The court was told police responded by firing a baton round and the officer alleged this had struck Stewart on the collar bone. When arrested he allegedly said, "I might as well put my hands up - I did it."
Judge Conner refused bail and remanded all five in custody, saying they were offences arising out of serious disorder which "is why the court is sitting today".
Special courts are a rarity in Northern Ireland due to the vast expense involved in organising the opening of a closed building with magistrate, court clerks, security and custody officers all required to be in attendance.
One of the last times a court sat over the weekend was in 1990 when following the Stevens Inquiry into loyalist collusion a number of leading Shankill Road UDA men were remanded during a specially convened late night court.
In August 2011 during the mass riots in London, courts sat throughout the night to process more than 1,000 people accused of involvement in the disturbances. ■ DAMAGE: Above, Belfast Magistrates Court has put on special sittings for the riot accused. Above left, a loyalist banner outside Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon. Below, a burned-out car in east Belfast yesterday morning and below left, the clean-up in east Belfast yesterday
PICTURES: Pacemaker and below, Cliff Donaldson