un-beer-lievable | 

Belfast rioter who claims he mistook petrol bombs for bag of booze avoids jail

Jonathan Maitland (25) travelled to the scene of the riot after consuming 12 cans of Harp lager
Jonathan Maitland

Jonathan Maitland

Rioting at Lanark Way in April 2021.

Rioting at Lanark Way in April 2021.

Christopher WoodhouseSunday Life

A rioter who was caught with a bag of petrol bombs which he said he thought were bottles of booze has avoided being jailed.

Jonathan Maitland was arrested during violent sectarian clashes at a west Belfast peaceline in April last year.

The 25-year-old had drank 12 tins of Harp before making his way to Lanark Way, off the Shankill Road, after seeing footage of the disturbances being shared on social media.

At Belfast Crown Court last week Maitland, from Avoca Street in the city, was given a two-year probation order.

The judge decided against jailing Maitland after considering a pre-sentence report ordered after he entered guilty pleas in January.

Rioting at Lanark Way in April 2021.

Rioting at Lanark Way in April 2021.

He admitted riotous assembly, aiding and abetting the throwing of a petrol bomb and to possessing petrol bombs in suspicious circumstances, all on April 8.

Maitland denied the offence of possession of petrol bombs and the prosecution asked for it to be left on the books.

When the case was first heard at the city’s magistrates court, his solicitor said he provided police with a full account of his whereabouts until 10.45pm on the night of the alleged offences, including alibi witnesses.

The lawyer said Maitland was arrested at 11.05pm and given his house is 15 minutes from the scene, that would give him a “very short window of involvement”.

He said Maitland claimed he travelled to the scene after seeing footage of the rioting on Facebook and having consumed 12 cans of Harp lager.

The lawyer explained that Maitland went there with another man and CCTV footage from the scene shows him picking up a Russell Cellars bag which he thought might contain alcohol.

Maitland saw what was in it but he was then approached by a man wearing a balaclava who asked, “Are you going to do anything with that?”.

He replied that he wasn’t and the man took it from him, adding that Maitland wasn’t seen throwing anything and could be seen walking away before police rushed forward and arrested a number of people.

The solicitor said Maitland required an appropriate adult during police interview and had been “deeply affected” by his time in custody.

More than 90 police officers were injured during the disturbances across Northern Ireland in March and April last year.

Loyalist paramilitaries were blamed for instigating the violence under the cover of it being a protest about the Irish Sea border.

But at the time the Loyalist Community Council (LCC) — an umbrella group which includes UVF and UDA leaders — insisted that none of its associated organisations “have been involved either directly or indirectly in the violence witnessed in recent days”.


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