TWO young Banbridge men have been jailed for their part in a riot at Scarva Road last summer.
Damien Donaghy (22) from Huntly Road and Stephen Vincent Anthony McPolin (23) from Edenderry Park were told by District Judge Mr Paul Copeland that rioting was “the most serious public order offence in the criminal calendar” and only a prison sentence was appropriate.
Jailing the pair, Mr Copeland said this was a matter for the appropriate rule of law.
He said, “I have to ensure the safety of the public and that there is no risk to police officers, to life and to property.
“This offence requires an exemplary sentence and one that sends a strong warning to many of those thinking of riotous behaviour.
“This offence goes to the very root of the stability of a community. It has a significant impact on that community’s stability. It causes damage to decent law abiding citizens, causes alarm and economic loss to the business community.
“You showed a deliberate criminal intentional part in this whereby roads were blocked, property set alight and police officers attacked. There was significant alarm to members of the public.”
Donaghy who was charged with assault on police, obstruction of a road and riotous behaviour, was jailed for six months.
Referring to his previously clear record, Mr Copeland said, “Even those with clear records have to remember that if you are willing to take part in a riot, damage property and intimidate people, then you can expect to be met with the full rigour of the law.”
Turning to McPolin, who was charged with riotous behaviour Mr Copeland sentenced him to 10 months in prison.
The court heard that McPolin has a “significant record” for disorderly behaviour and other offences of a violent and aggressive conduct. He was also fined £250.
A PPS Prosecutor outlined details of the incident at 10pm on 8 August last year when police received a number of reports of youths gathering on the Scarva Road, Banbridge.
A home-made barricade had been erected and youths were trying to set it alight.
The Fire Service were in attendance and the barricade was alight. Large crowds had gathered at the top of a stairwell overlooking the blaze
A police landrover then came under sustained attack by stones, bricks and bottles.
McPolin was one of the youths identified wearing a hoody and scarf in an attempt to conceal his identity.
Missiles continued to be thrown and police gave chase in the direction of Edenderry Gardens.
Donaghy was located in a driveway and he lashed out punching a PSNI officer on the left side of his collarbone. He made no reply when charged.
Officers noted that his inner palms were heavily soiled with soot and dirt. Donaghy claimed he didn’t light the fire, but rather dragged the “stuff onto the road.”
McPolin was arrested and taken into custody and after caution said, “I wasn’t rioting.” He denied being at the scene claiming he was at the home of a male friend.
McPolin’s barrister Mr Rea said his client understood the severity of the charges adding, “He has already served a three month sentence for this offence.”
He added, “This is a young man, up until recent times, who showed a level of responsibility to employment. He entered a guilty plea on 15 November last and I urge the court to take that on board.”
“He appears today with both parents and comes from a stable and loving family home. He has told me that if he had been sober then this would not have happened. I know that is no excuse but it is an explanation.”
Donaghy’s barrister claimed his client had some “identifiable issues in his life” and he requires help and assistance to deal with these issues.
He claimed that if they were not addressed then there was a risk of him developing an ever increasing criminal record.
“He had a very sad and troublesome upbringing in the care system from a young age. His father took his own life when the defendant was seven years old and then he had a kinship placement with his aunt.”
The court heard that Donaghy continues to live with his aunt and she is a “positive influence on his life”.