Newtownabbey man (48) jailed over joining ‘orchestrated’ rioting

A former barber from Newtownabbey was jailed on Monday for a year over his involvement in ‘orchestrated’ rioting in Co Antrim.

im Baker (48), of Clonmore Green, will spend a further two years on supervised license on release from jail after pleading guilty at Belfast Crown Court to rioting and throwing a petrol bomb during last year’s sustained period of violence on the streets of Northern Ireland .

It was the prosecution’s case that the offenses related to four hours of “unsavoury and unsettling” rioting on Saturday April 3, 2021, at Cloughfern Corner and O’Neill Road in Newtownabbey.

At 7.30pm, around 60 people had gathered and a police vehicle was attacked by stone-throwing masked evils.

Three cars were hijacked and torched with petrol bombs, while waste bins were dragged onto the road at Cloughfern roundabout and set on fire.

Two hours later, police came under “sustained attack” by 30 rioters who threw petrol bombs, masonry, bottles and fireworks.

In total, 30 petrol bombs were thrown but no police officers were injured, the court was told.

According to the prosecution, unemployed Baker was spotted by police running from the scene and was arrested.

The was identified from police footage as being part of the rioters — defendant first threw a rock at police and later he was seen with a bottle in his hand and lighting a rag before throwing the petrol bomb at police lines.

In a pre-sentence report, Baker told a probation officer that he had seen a live feed of the rioting on social media and “got a bit of a buzz” from it and decided to attend the scene.

He claimed that at the riot he was handed a petrol bomb and told to throw it. He said he did so because the rioting had been organized by local loyalist paramilitaries and he “couldn’t refuse”.

The father-of-one admitted he had been drinking heavily that evening and had gone to the riot despite his wife warning him not to as he would “only get into trouble”.

Judge Patrick Kinney said that Baker had expressed his “genuine remorse” for his behavior after the rioting. He had engaged in mediation through a restorative justice program and had met “police officers directly affected by his offending”.

Passing sentence, Judge Kinney said it was clear Baker was part of a “mob” who had fueled the “orchestrated” violence which impacted on the public “who are entitled to go about their daily life and business without fear”.

The judge said that it must now be well known that “society will not tolerate this kind of violent anti-social behavior”.

“The courts will impose sentences to provide both punishment and deterrence. Rioting is an extremely serious offense and one which has a clear and obvious impact on society and on targeted groups such as the police.

“Those who choose, and it is clearly a choice, to take part in such activities must understand that they do so at their peril. Alcohol is no excuse.”

Judge Kinney noted that the defendant’s mental illness may have affected his “flawed” thinking at the time and although no police officers were injured, the harm is low “but his culpability is high”.

The judge added: “He didn’t happen upon this situation. He knew there was a riot ongoing and he left his house with the express purpose of joining that scene and did so against the express warnings and wishes of his wife.

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