Magistrate backs DUP road-block

The DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson was given an ``absolute discharge'' yesterday despite being convicted of blocking a main road to facilitate a loyalist event on the flashpoint Albertbridge Road in east Belfast.

The loyalist paramilitary UDA were understood to have demanded the road beside the nationalist Short Strand enclave be closed for the purposes of holding a street party, despite high tension at the interface.

Republicans believed the `party' was an attempt to provoke nationalists at the height of a loyalist campaign of violence.

Robinson told the court he feared violence following a UDA threat to bring several hundred men onto the road if it was not closed.

The Albertbridge Road is a main arterial route into and out of Belfast and there was no authority to close the road on a busy Saturday.

``The defendants went into the middle of the road, stopped traffic and re-directed it,'' the court was told.

They were advised they were committing a possible offence of obstruction, yet they continued to obstruct the traffic.

Yestgerday, Robinson and fellow councillor Ruth Patterson escaped a fine after Resident Magistrate Sarah Creanor claimed their actions were designed to defuse what could have been a very serious situation.

The Magistrate chose not to address the motivations for the loyalist event taking place at a flashpoint area.

``Reluctantly I feel they committed the offence of obstructing free passage along the road but in the circumstances I propose to give them an absolute discharge,'' she said.


Meanwhile, the trial of three men in the so-called `Stormontgate' case, which led to the collapse of the power-sharing executive, has been further delayed.

The trio appeared together in the dock today when it was expected they would be sent for trial. But one of the defendant's lawyers pointed out that issues has arisen relating to a book written by the BBC's security editor Brian Rowan.

A chapter in the book indicates there were witnesses who could be helpful to the defence but whose statements were not included in the papers served by the prosecution.

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