Belfast rioters warned: be prepared to face special courts within hours

Northern Ireland braces for a third night of disorder, with police and magistrates on standby to work through the night

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The Independent Online

Special courts have been set up in Northern Ireland to deal with would-be rioters, who have been told they will face a judge within hours of arrest.

After two nights of disorder in Belfast, Stormont’s Justice Minister David Ford issued the stark warning in a bid to curtail any further violence.

A special sitting of Belfast Magistrates' Court is being held on Sunday, and plans have been put in place to keep it open and running late into the night if needed.

Around 35 arrests have been made since riots began at 8.30pm on Friday, but police said they expected to make many more once they have reviewed video footage of incidents.

Almost 40 officers have been injured so far, with petrol bombs, bricks, bottles and other missiles thrown by rioters.

Mr Ford said today: “My message is clear; do not get involved in rioting on our streets, but if you choose to do so, then be prepared to face the courts within hours.

“Sunday courts are in operation, and to young people in particular I would say this: 'Do you want to leave home today with a clean record and by tonight have a criminal record, which could have consequences which will stay with you for the rest of your life?'”

With 400 extra officers deployed in Belfast from across the rest of the UK yesterday, disorder did not reach the same levels as Friday. Seven members of the riot squad were hurt, but none seriously, and all remained on duty.

Trouble first flared up following a protest called by the Orange Order after part of a commemorative parade was banned by the Parades Commission.

When demonstrations turned violent, senior Orangemen asked for calm, but were unable to control the disorder that it is feared will continue tonight.