Flags protester denies assault

A man arrested during a Union flag protest in Limavady has denied assaulting and resisting police.

William James Young, of Thiepval Court in the town, was arrested during a protest on December 18, 2012, outside Limavady Borough Council offices. The 54-year-old has pleaded guilty to one count of disorderly behaviour in the vicinity of Connell Street, Limavady, but denies three counts of assault on police and one count of resisting police.

A lengthy contest hearing at Limavady Magistrates Court on Wednesday heard evidence from four police officers who were at the scene that evening. The contest also heard from Young, and two males who were at the protest and said they knew Young.

The court heard that police were aware of a possible protest outside a meeting of Limavady Borough Council on Connell Street.

Officers were briefed on the matter and deployed to the area from 6.30pm. There was a crowd of upwards of 20 people present, among them a baby in a pram and young children, and the area was peaceful at that time, the court heard.

At approximately 8.30pm, officers were notified the meeting had finished 
and councillors were about to exit the building.

As police escorted some of the Sinn Fein councillors towards their vehicles, shouts of ‘murdering b*******’, and ‘Sinn Fein scum’ were made.

Police claimed as they moved to arrest Young for disorderly behaviour he assaulted and resisted them, “holding onto a bin very forcibly”, a prosecutor for the Public Prosecution Service said, adding: “He lashed out in the course of it.”

One police officer said she was struck by Young on the face, forcing her head back and her hat to fall off, while a second officer said he was struck by Young in the chest. The prosecutor said it put a third police officer in fear he would be assaulted.

Young has admitted being disorderly, but denies the assault and resisting charges. Young’s defence counsel argued that a police officer used two hands to shove Young in the chest, causing him to fall back and grab onto a bin to stabilise himself.

The court heard from police that two sets of handcuffs were used to “physically restrain” Young, who was subsequently placed in the rear of a cell van and taken to the PSNI station.

When questioned in court on 
Wednesday, Young told the court he arrived at the protest that night at 7.30pm/8pm by himself.

He estimated there to be at least 50 people at the protest by the end of the night.

He admitted being disorderly, but said after that, “I did nothing” and denied assaulting and resisting police.

He told the court that had he punched the female officer she would have been hospitalised, but said: “I didn’t”. Young also told the court he didn’t strike another male officer, claiming: “They’ve got it wrong.”

District Judge Paul Copeland reserved judgement in the case until next Wednesday, April 17, at Limavady 
Magistrates Court.