Northern Ireland

Kilwilkee Estate: Lurgan ‘man on the roof’ jailed for two years for his part in 2020 riot

Kieran Fox (second from left), son of Eamon Fox, is comforted during a press conference outside Belfast Crown Court by a family member as he gives reaction to James Smyth being found not guilty of the murders of his father Eamon Fox and Gary Convie in 1994
Laganside Courthouse in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

A Co Armagh man who took part in a riot in the Kilwilkie Estate in Lurgan has been jailed for two years.

Robert Rooney, from Victoria Street, was convicted last November on two charges arising from the August 2020 riot.

He was back in Belfast Crown Court on Tuesday where he was handed a four-year sentence which was divided equally between prison and licence.

Imposing the term, the Belfast Recorder branded the charges of rioting and possessing a petrol bomb as “very serious offences” and said: “The courts will impose sentences to protect police officers.”

Rooney was one of a number of men arrested and charged in the aftermath of a riot which broke out in the Kilwilkie Estate on August 23, 2020.

Petrol bombs were pelted at police after they dealt with a suspect device in the area.

The street disorder was recorded by cameras attached to police Land Rovers as well as the aerial support unit, and after the footage was viewed by police, a number of arrests were made.

Rooney denied the charges and during the non-jury trial, the Crown presented evidence against him which included footage and images of him both masked and unmasked at the riot.

It was the Crown’s case that Rooney was captured standing on the roof of a house on the Kilwilke Road holding a petrol bomb.

At the end the trial, Judge Smyth ruled Rooney was the man on the roof.

She said she reached this conclusion due to combination of the distinctive clothes and boots worn by the suspect on the roof which were later recovered from a search of Rooney’s home, as well as being recognised and identified by police officers.

A defence barrister told Judge Smyth that Rooney’s involvement in the riot was “quite limited to a short time duration” and that no bomb was thrown.

As she imposed the term, Judge Smyth told Rooney that whilst she accepted he spent a significant period of time as a “bystander”, the evidence of his participation in the riot was “overwhelming.”