Northern Ireland news

North Belfast man involved in riot at city's peaceline narrowly avoids prison

David Maitland had pleaded guilty to riotous assembly and aiding and abetting the throwing of a petrol bomb

A NORTH Belfast man involved in a riot last year at the city's peaceline has narrowly has avoided a prison sentence.

Judge Richard Green QC told Jonathan David Maitland (26) that although the custody threshold had been passed, "exceptional circumstances'' in his case allowed him to impose a two-year probation order to deal with his ongoing mental issues.

Maitland, from Avoca Street, had pleaded guilty to riotous assembly and aiding and abetting the throwing of a petrol bomb.

Belfast Crown Court heard that on April 8, 2021, there was "serious public disorder'' at Lanark Way, off the Springfield Road, with petrol bombs thrown over the peaceline.

The prosecution said Maitland was captured on CCTV at the scene where 30 rioters had gathered and attacked police with petrol bombs, fireworks and masonry.

Maitland was seen lifting a plastic bag containing petrol bombs and removing a device and "lighting a rag in the neck of the bottle with his own lighter''.

Following his arrest, Maitland said he was at his girlfriend's house and heard about the riot over social media and went down to the scene to have a "wee look''.

He admitted taking a petrol bomb out of the bag and lighting it, but said the bag was at scene. He claimed he was there for five minutes, but CCTV recorded him being present for 16 minutes.

The court heard Maitland had previous convictions for disorderly behaviour and theft.

Medical reports stated Maitland struggles with mental health issues, exacerbated by the death of a cousin and an assault on him and his brother.

A probation officer's pre-sentence report said Maitland had shown genuine remorse and a period in custody would have a "detrimental effect on his mental health''.

Stating Maitland was not a ring leader and had not been at the riot for long, Judge Greene said he had family support, had shown victim awareness and there were no further matters pending before the courts.

He said the defendant was working with a restorative justice programme and seeking therapeutic assistance for ongoing health issues.

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