Loyalist rioters in Belfast have been warned they will face a judge within hours of arrest, after special courts were set up to deal with alleged troublemakers.
Stormont’s justice minister David Ford issued the stark ultimatum to those contemplating further violence after two successive nights of disorder in the north of the city. Seven police officers were injured in Saturday’s night’s clashes.
Petrol bombs, bricks, bottles, and other missiles were thrown at officers in the same Woodvale area in the north of the city that witnessed serious disorder on Friday night.
Police responded by firing 10 baton rounds and deploying water cannon.
The latest police casualties came after 32 officers were injured on Friday night and MP for North Belfast Nigel Dodds was hospitalised after being struck by a brick. He was discharged on Saturday.
Around 35 arrests have been made since Friday, though police expect to make many more after analysing video footage of the disorder.
A special sitting of Belfast magistrates’ court was held yesterday with contingencies in place to keep it running if the trouble continues.
Mr Ford said yesterday: “While the violence of last evening was not on the scale of Friday, I wish to make it clear that anyone intent on rioting will be dealt with speedily by the courts.
“Sunday courts are in operation and I would warn those intent on engaging in violence on our streets to think through the consequences of their actions.
“To young people in particular, I would say this: ‘Do you want to leave home today with a clean record and by tonight have a criminal record, which could have consequences which will stay with you for the rest of your life?’
“My message is clear; do not get involved in rioting, but if you choose to do so, then be prepared to face the courts within hours.”
The Orange Order had originally called for protests against the determination of the Parades Commission adjudication body but, in the wake of Friday’s violence, senior Orangemen called for protest action to be suspended.
PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott has condemned those responsible for the trouble and also criticised those within the Orange Order leadership who called for protests.
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