Fighting loyalists forced a judge to abandon plans to deliver a verdict at a tense murder trial in Belfast today.
Mr Justice Higgins refused to announce his judgment after police struggled to keep rival loyalist factions apart outside his courtroom.
A number of people were injured and at one stage a threat was made to throw one man over a fourth floor balcony.
After the violence, the judge said he was deferring the case of a brother and sister accused of involvement in the murder of millionaire loyalist drugs baron, Jim Johnston.
Judge Higgins announced his decision to delay the verdict 90 minutes after the mass brawl involving up to 25 people, mostly men, erupted on the top floor of the building at Laganside Courthouse.
Extra police officers rushed from the neighbouring Northern Ireland High Court building as well as two on bicycles who had been on city centre duty.
The men, most of whom attempted to conceal their identity with baseball caps, zipped up jackets and hooded tops, were escorted from the building.
As they left the court some of them chanted support for the paramilitary Loyalist Volunteer Force, bitter rivals of the Red Hand Commando (RHC) which is linked to the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).
There were no arrests.
Mr Johnston, aged 45, a member of the loyalist RHC, was shot outside his home in Crawfordsburn, County Down, on the eastern outskirts of Belfast in May 2003.
Robert Young, 41, from Ulsterville Park in Portadown, Co Armagh denied murdering Mr Johnston.
His sister Lorraine, 39, from Holywood, Co Down pleaded not to guilty providing him with a false alibi.
A second woman, Susan Ferguson, 36, also from Holywood, denied three counts of possessing firearms.
Young was remanded in custody but the two women were granted bail.
When the court reconvened after the fighting, Judge Higgins said: “I am deferring giving judgment on this case today. The parties will be informed when the case will next sit.”
Around 40 police officers stood outside the court afterwards to prevent any further trouble flaring.
A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Court Service said no date had been set for the next hearing.