A man allegedly “whipped up” a crowd of children into attacking police in Derry with masonry and bottles, the High Court heard today.
Prosecutors claimed Emmet McSheffrey was the ringleader among rioters aged as young as 12 who pelted a mobile patrol in the city’s Creggan Estate last month.
The 20-year-old was denied bail after a judge was told tensions have remained high since the murder in April of journalist Lyra McKee.
Mr Justice McAlinden said: “Public order offences have to be dealt with in a manner which ensures ordinary citizens living in these areas can go about their daily lives without this type of activity taking place.”
McSheffrey, of Oakland Park in the city, faces charges of riotous behaviour, attempted criminal damage to a PSNI Land Rover and encouraging or assisting others to riot.
Police came under attack as they carried out an operation in the Iniscairn Road area on the afternoon of June 27.
A Crown lawyer said around 30 youths launched a sustained barrage, throwing masonry, bricks, stones and glass bottles.
He claimed McSheffrey was at the centre of the disturbances, his face unmasked, and has been identified by three officers.
“Police described him as whipping up the children and encouraging them in this attack,” counsel said.
McSheffrey allegedly ran towards police himself, repeatedly hurling missiles at the Land Rovers.
According to the lawyer, one brick he threw bounced off a vehicle and landed close to mothers pushing prams.
He was also seen helping one of the youths cover their face with a hood, it was claimed.
Opposing bail, the prosecutor referred to the shooting of 29-year-old Ms McKee as she observed a previous outbreak of disorder in the Creggan.
“Police say the situation is highly volatile there, and these riots and disturbances stop the police going about their ordinary routine work in these areas,” he said.
“This applicant is seen as a ringleader in that area and, to use the police words, was whipping up the children in the disturbances.”
Defence counsel, instructed by Hampson Harvey solicitors, countered that McSheffrey must be presumed innocent, adding: “He does not accept his purported identification by police.”
The barrister described his client’s first appearance before Derry Magistrates’ Court, when he refused to stand or confirm his name, as “a circus”.
But he insisted McSheffrey was now more “contrite” and wanted to apologise for his conduct during those earlier proceedings.
Denying bail, however, the judge indicated it would send out the wrong message to release an alleged rioter - particularly at this time of year.
Mr Justice McAlinden pointed out: “This isn’t just participating, this is the alleged orchestration of public disorder and it’s the encouraging and goading or shepherding of young children to engage in this type of activity that brings it to a completely different level of risk.”