Ex-serviceman drove dangerously after Union flags protest

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An ex-serviceman today received a suspended jail sentence for dangerous driving after a Union flags protest in Limavady.

Barrie Mark Jackson, with an address at Kings Lane, Ballykelly, was sentenced for the offence at Limavady Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.

Jackson, aged 50, was also sentenced for breach of a signal given by a police constable, and possession of an offensive weapon. All charges relate to December 12, 2012, when police were monitoring protesters outside Limavady Borough Council offices during the ongoing loylaist flags protest. An estimated 60 people were present and, at around 9pm, as the council meeting ended, the situation grew tense.

At 9.15pm, police formed a loose cordon on the pavement and Sinn Fein and other members left in a convoy turning left onto Connell Street. There was shouting, including sectarian slogans, the court was told.

The court heard Jackson got into his vehicle and drove down Connell Street, against the flow of traffic and came “nose to nose” with another vehicle at one point. Jackson was warned to stop but he drove, slowly, and then proceeded to increase his speed.

Police chased Jackson on foot as he was driving down the wrong way. The court heard oncoming vehicles were forced to take evasive action, and officers tried to stop him by striking Jackson’s vehicle with batons, but Jackson continued through the traffic lights and across two lanes and came to a stop on the pavement facing into an entry-way.

He was subsequently arrested and told police: “I was wrong as I know I done wrong.”

He also admitted he had a telescopic baton in his car, claiming he had it for protection as he still felt threatened. He also told police he had a right to drive against the traffic as Sinn Fein had been allowed to do so.

Jackson’s defence lawyer, David Brewster, said his client was at the protest because his son had organised it. When members of Council had been allowed to “go against the flow of traffic”, Jackson “very foolishly took umbrage with that”.

Mr. Brewster said it had been very stupid driving, but Jackson had taken issue with being “nose to nose” with a vehicle. He said Jackson drove 200 yards at most, at a speed where police were able to “jog”. Jackson pulled up at the first opportunity and said he didn’t hear police calling him.

Mr. Brewster said Jackson panicked, that the telescopic baton was never intended for use and he had volunteered the information to police that it was in his vehicle.

Mr. Brewster said Jackson is an ex-serviceman and is now involved in charity work, helping other ex-servicemen deal with stress.

District Judge Paul Copeland told Jackson what he’d engaged in was “totally irresponsible and destructive conduct” and that “it lacked judgement, sense and reason”.

Judge Copeland said it was “a piece of foolhardy grandstanding”, which would cost Jackson his driving licence for a significant period of time.

“You have a thoroughly misplaced sense of your own self-importance,” said Judge Copeland, noting Jackson had been dishonourably discharged from service.

Judge Copeland said it had been a foolish and stupid thing to do, and that having the offensive weapon was totally unacceptable.

Jackson received a four-month jail sentence, suspended for two years. He was also fined a total of £550 and disqualified from driving for one year. He was also ordered to pay an offenders levy of £15.

After sentencing, Judge Copeland told Jackson he had “no business” engaging in this type of public disorder on the streets of Limavady.

On leaving the dock, Jackson said: “I apologise, Your Honour.”