The defendant said he got ‘carried away’ fighting against the Policing Bill
A protester has been convicted of trying to endanger the life of a police officer by torching a van during a riot after the “Kill the Bill” demonstrations in Bristol earlier this year.
Ryan Roberts, 25, led chants of “ACAB: All cops are bastards” outside Bridewell police station on 21 March before throwing cans, bottles and placards at officers in a protest against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
Footage from the riot showed Roberts pushing pieces of flaming cardboard under two police vans, and placing industrial bins around an already partially burnt-out police car and setting them alight.
He had also told an officer inside one of the vans that he would “go bang”, it was claimed.
During his trial at Bristol Crown Court, the jury heard Roberts verbally abused and repeatedly kicked officers, before smashing in the windows of the police station, encouraging the crowd to help roll it over, before setting light to the cab.
On Friday, Roberts was convicted of one count of attempted arson with intent to endanger life and one count of attempted arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered for trying to set light to two police vans.
Two alternative counts of attempted arson were left to lie on the court file, while Roberts was further convicted of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered for setting light to the police car.
Roberts was found guilty of riot, while he was convicted of one count of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered in respect of the torching of a mobile police station by a majority verdict of 10 to two.
In his evidence, Roberts said he got “carried away” fighting against the bill that is currently going through Parliament.
Roberts told the court the legislation sought to “ban peaceful protest altogether” and the demo “was more about freedom of speech”.
He said the mood of the protest changed when police wore riot gear as night fell, and said officers started “pushing, shoving and hitting” the crowd away from the police station, in Bristol’s city centre, using shields and batons.
Forty-four officers were injured in the riot, which died down in the early hours of the next day.
Katheryn Hobbs, a legal observer trained to monitor police behaviour and advise protesters during demonstrations, said she witnessed multiple incidents of police violence on 21 March.
She said she had witnessed officers “shoving, kicking, hitting, pulling and pushing the crowd back” outside the police station.
Ms Hobbs said she gave first aid to 25 or 30 people during the evening, many of whom had been pepper sprayed.
She said she saw multiple incidents of “blading” by police, when an officer brings the sharp edge of a riot shield down on a protester.
“I certainly witnessed police officers doing that to several people seated on the floor, which is extremely dangerous.”
Roberts will be sentenced on a date that has yet to be set.