Cookstown man jailed over Twelfth riots in Belfast

Twelfth riots in Belfast.
Twelfth riots in Belfast.

A Co Tyrone man was today (Friday) jailed for nine months after he threw four bottles and a wheelie bin at police during serious rioting at a Twelfth of July parade in north Belfast.

Gary Holdsworth (31), of Milburn Close, Cookstown, pleaded guilty to a single charge of rioting on July 12, 2013 when he appeared in the dock of Belfast Crown court.

The court heard that police were on duty on the Woodvale Road to enforce a Parades Commission determination which banned a Ligoniel return feeder parade passing by the nearby Ardoyne shops.

Trouble flared around 4pm and lasted into the early hours of the following morning, the court was told.

A prosecution barrister played CCTV footage to Judge Corinne Philpott QC which showed Holdsworth, dressed in a blue T-shirt, a red baseball cap and shorts attacking police lines.

He was captured by PSNI ‘spotters’ hurling four bottles at police in riot gear and later recorded on film lifting a green industrial bin and lobbying it at officers standing behind defence shields.

Father-of-two Holdsworth was also seen shaking his fists at police. The court heard he told a probation officer that he “hated police’’.

The lawyer told the court that Holdsworth was identified from the footage and arrested for questioning.

“During the course of that he made a no comment interview. He had a solicitor with him and he was shown the footage.’’

Judge Philpott asked: “I take it he did not accept his responsibility when he was shown the footage and he declined to answer any questions and showed no remorse?

The prosecution barrister replied: “That’s correct, your Honour.’’

The deputy Belfast Recorder was told that Holdsworth was convicted in August last year of affray in Cookstown after a man was stabbed in the back. He also had a disorderly behaviour conviction dating back to 2004.

“However, he has no previous convictions for rioting,” the lawyer added.

A defence barrister said Holdsworth had come to Belfast with friends to watch the Twelfth parade and had gone to get something to eat after getting separated.

He said it was clear from the CCTV footage that he was on his own and was not part of any group.

Judge Philpott asked: “So while he is in Belfast drinking, where was his wife and two children?”

His defence barrister replied: “His wife and family were watching a Twelth parade in Tyrone.”

Sentencing Holdsworth, Judge Phipott QC said: “This was disgraceful and deplorable conduct. You are 31, not 19.

“You got separated from your friends, allegedly, and then you go to find something to eat, and then you come upon this trouble.

“You were there for an hour throwing, four bottles and a wheelie bin at police lines.

“This was a significant riot. Twelve police officers were injured with two being hospitalised. Thirty petrol bombs were thrown, along with masonry, bricks and bottles.

“It is quite clear that you have shown no real remorse because you were caught dead in the water in relation to the footage. You were not far from being caught red-handed.”

She said the real victim as the result of him going to jail was his wife, who was sitting in the public gallery.

“She has to look after your two young children while working. She is working all hours she can, including extra hours that come up.

“If it was not for that fact your prison sentence would be steeper.”

Judge Philpott sentenced Holdsworth to 18 months, with half in custody and remainder on licence following his release from prison.