Two men charged in connection with west Belfast riots denied bail

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Photo - rioting at the interface in west Belfast. Alan Lewis

By James Ward, PA

Two men charged in connection with riots in Northern Ireland have been denied bail on grounds that they could reoffend.

Matthew Shaw, 32, of Moody Park, Scarva, Co Down, and Jonathan Maitland, 24, from Avoca Street, Belfast, appeared before Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Saturday, having been arrested following the riots on Thursday night.

Shaw was charged with rioting while Maitland was charged with rioting and possessing petrol bombs in suspicious circumstances.

Seamus Bannon, representing Shaw, told the court his client had found himself at the scene of the riots on Lanark Way at “the behest and encouragement of others”.

Mr Bannon said his client “has no sectarian axe to grind” and was “at a loss to explain how on earth he found himself in this position”.

“It’s clear to me that he has no axe to grind in terms of what’s going on. His wife is actually Catholic and he was found at the Unionist/Protestant side of this divide” he said.

“He has no sectarian axe to grind at all.”

The court heard Shaw is a father to two children, while his partner is heavily pregnant with their third child.

Mr Bannon said: “She is absolutely appalled and disgusted that he has found himself in the position he now is in. It’s brought embarrassment on her and embarrassment on his children.”

Applying for bail, Mr Bannon noted that his client was charged only with being present at the scene and had not harmed or injured anybody.

He said the single reason for opposing bail would be risk of further offences.

He added: “Given the conversation that I have had with his wife, he is going to have very significant explaining to do when he’s speaking to her next.

“She is a very stabilising influence, she runs a good house and she keeps him and everybody in the house in check.

“I submit that if he is granted bail, that in itself will be a significant factor on any particular issue that the court might have.”

Trouble between Republicans and Loyalists on peace line on Wednesday night - Alan Lewis, photopress

However, Judge Rosalie Prytherch said the offences he is charged with are very serious, and that the situation in relation to the riots is ongoing.

She noted that he had made the decision to travel some distance at the encouragement of others to be present on Thursday night.

Denying bail, she said the risk of reoffending was too high and that the community needs to be protected.

He was ordered to appear before the court via videolink on April 21.

Shaw, who is in receipt of employment benefits, was granted legal aid.

Maitland was charged with rioting and possession of petrol bombs in suspicious circumstances.

He was also denied bail over fears that he could reoffend, with the court hearing he lived just a 15-minute walk form the scene of the disorder.

His solicitor Matthew Deazley of the firm Higgins Hollywood Deazley told the court his client attended the scene after being sent footage of what was happening on social media.

He said his client had found a plastic bag at the scene, and picked it up thinking there was alcohol in the bag.

Another man wearing a balaclava approached him and asked if he was going to do anything with that bag to which he said “no”, and then provided the bag to them.

He said an allegation that his client had lit a petrol bomb was under dispute in his police interview.

Maitland told police he could not remember if he had lit the petrol bomb or passed his lighter to them, but believed he had passed his lighter as it was no longer in his possession.

The reason for his lack of memory, Mr Deazley said, was that his client was intoxicated having taken about “12 beers, tins of Harp”.

He said his client had only been at the scene for a short time, was suffering from PTSD after being the victim of an assault some years back, and was struggling with family issues.

Judge Prytherch denied the application in view of the seriousness of the charges, the ongoing situation in relation to public disorder and the risk of reoffending.

She ordered him to appear before the court via videolink on April 22.

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