A RIOTER told police he wore a balaclava to imitate someone in a burkha during the trouble that broke out during a march in memory of murdered soldier Lee Rigby.
Craig Oakley, 41, joined a march the judge described as little more than a “pub crawl” for men aged between 18 and 35 – some of whom were members of the English Defence League,
The march was organised in Kingswood via social-networking website Facebook following the death of Drummer Rigby in Woolwich, London on May 22.
What started as a relatively peaceful event, with some 20 to 30 people involved, became fractious and resulted in police ‘kettling’ the group, that by then had swollen to around 60 people, in St George’s Hall pub in Redfield.
During that time Oakley, a security guard, was filmed by police chanting, helping build the barricade of tables and chairs in the pub and kicking out at an police officer.
The married father-of-two of Nover’s Lane, Knowle was arrested and later admitted affray.
At Bristol Crown Court he was given a five-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months with 100 hours unpaid work and must pay a £80 victim surcharge.
Richard Posner, prosecuting, said police quickly realised what had been organised as a family event was nothing of the sort and extra officers were called in.
After they saw Oakley had kicked out at a police officer and helped build the barricade in the pub he was arrested and a balaclava was found in his jeans pocket.
“He had put that balaclava on and made gestures at police officers,” Mr Posner said.
“He said he did so to imitate the wearing of a burkha. They could not say if he was shouting racist abuse.”
Mr Posner said Oakley was quick to apologise for his actions and was seen to be ashamed and embarrassed that he had let his family down.
Robert Morgan-Jones, for Oakley, made it clear there was no evidence his client was a member of the EDL, had hurled racist abuse or thrown bottles at police officers.
He added that there was substantial evidence of Oakley pulling back protesters who were attacking police and he had kicked out in a “moment of madness.”
Mr Morgan-Jones conceded Oakley’s explanation for wearing the balaclava was “ridiculous” but denied he had it there to conceal his identity.
“It speaks more of a lack of thought and stupidity than anything pre-planned,” he said.
Mr Morgan-Jones said Oakley had written a letter expressing his remorse before he was even interviewed, and he had paid a heavy price because he had been unable to get his licence from the Security Industry Authority because of his actions.
Recorder David Evans told Oakley: “You chose to take part in this event and stayed with the marchers for the duration once you had joined them. That meant going to various pubs and drinking alcohol with the group getting increasingly rowdy.
“It has been said on your behalf that kicking out at police was a moment of madness but I’m afraid I don’t agree.
“No one required you to go out drinking or to be at the forefront of the group. It was not a moment of madness, it was a moment of utterly unneeded drunken aggression.
“While wearing the balaclava is not an act of violence it is an aggravating feature and could only have been taken with you on the march with a particular intention.”