The rioters mistook the petrol bomb as a bag of liquor after drinking 12 cans of lager.

A man who claimed to have picked up a bag of petrol bombs mistaking it for alcohol has admitted to rioting on the peace line.

Jonathan Maitland Belfast Crown Court heard he drank 12 cans of the harp before going to the riot site after viewing Facebook footage.

The 25-year-old pleaded guilty to three charges after participating in violent communal clashes in the city in April last year.

He was arrested while rioting along the peace line at Lanark Way near Shankil Road, west of the city.

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Loyalists and Nationalists throw petrol bombs on the peace line at Lanark Way during the riots in West Belfast last April

Troubles escalated after a loyalist protest against the Irish Sea border with violence on both sides of the peace line. Maitland was arrested on the loyal side of Flashpoint.

Maitland on Avoca Street in northern Belfast was charged with abetting a violent gathering, throwing petrol bombs and placing petrol bombs under suspicious circumstances on 8 April.

During a hearing at the city’s Crown Court on Tuesday, Maitland pleaded guilty to charges of rioting and aiding in throwing petrol bombs, and betting.

He pleaded not guilty to the charge of possessing a petrol bomb and the judge agreed to leave it on the books.

The case for sentencing, along with the pre-sentence report, was added by February 25 and Maitland was released on bail.

When Maitland first appeared before the city’s magistrate court on the charges on April 10 last year, his lawyer told the hearing that he gave police a full account of his whereabouts by 10.45 p.m. of the alleged crimes, including other witnesses. were also involved.

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Remains of a bus burnt during the violent uproar

The lawyer said Maitland was arrested at 11.05 p.m. and his home was given a 15-minute drive from the scene, which would give him a “very short window of involvement.”

He said Maitland claimed he traveled to the scene after viewing footage of the riots on Facebook and eating 12 cans of harp lager.

The lawyer explained that Maitland had gone there with another man and that CCTV footage from the scene shows him picking up a Russell Sellers bag, which he thought might contain alcohol.

Maitland saw what was in it, but was then approached by a man wearing a balaclava, who asked, “Are you going to do something with it?”

He said he was not and the man took it from him, adding that Maitland was not seen throwing anything and could be seen walking away before police could move on and arrest several people.

He explained that Maitland needed a suitable adult during the police interview and was “deeply affected” by his time in custody.

The riots in West Belfast were part of a string of violent clashes in towns and cities across Northern Ireland in late March and early April.

90 police officers were injured and water cannons had to be used at one time to control the crowd. Loyalist paramilitary forces were blamed for inciting violence under the guise of being a protest about the Irish Sea border.

The clashes occurred even after the Public Prosecution Service’s decision not to prosecute senior Sinn Féin politicians for alleged COVID violations during the funeral of IRA chief Bobby Storey.

But at the time the Loyalist Community Council (LCC) – an umbrella group that includes UVF and UDA leaders – insisted that none of its affiliated organizations were “directly or indirectly involved in the violence seen in recent days”.