Rioter found guilty of arson with intento to endanger life

A man has been found guilty of trying to set fire to two police vans while officers were inside during the riot in Bristol in March.

Ryan Roberts, of no fixed address, was caught on camera telling an officer driving one of the vans he was going to “go bang”.

Following a four day trial at Bristol Crown Court, the 25-year-old was convicted of five offences – riot, attempted arson with intent to endanger life, attempted arson being reckless as to whether life is endangered and two counts of arson being reckless as to whether life is endangered.

While seven men have already been jailed for a total of 26 years and 11 months after admitting rioting in March, Roberts is the first person to be convicted of the offence by a jury in the South West. He will be sentenced at a later date.

During the trial, the jury were told Roberts took a leading role in the disorder over several hours and were shown a compilation of his offending lasting 34 minutes.

At the start of the compilation – made up of CCTV, mobile phone footage and officers body worn video – Roberts can be seen climbing on the roof of the Bridewell Police Station early in the afternoon and leading offensive chants about police.

He was then captured throwing missiles at police officers, kicking their shields and striking one with his hand before attacking the Bridewell.

Later in the evening, Roberts was filmed on multiple occasions attempting to start a fire under the wheel arch of a police van with an officer inside. At one point he is heard to threaten the officer, suggesting his van is going to explode.

He was then filmed repeatedly hitting an officer with a police baton before damaging three police vehicles, one of which he tries to roll over with others before starting a fire inside.

News footage from the night was also included in the compilation. It showed Roberts holding a piece of burning cardboard under a police van as it reversed. Seven officers were inside the vehicle at the time.

Other video clips showing Roberts moving a bin alongside a police car before setting it alight and throwing items, including large metal fences, at police lines were played to jurors.

Detective Superintendent James Riccio, the senior investigating officer, said: “Ryan Roberts played a leading role in one of the most shameful nights in Bristol’s recent history.

“He denied all the offences and blamed police for his actions but the footage we found of his involvement in the riot spoke for itself.

“Not only did he repeatedly target officers physically, hitting and kicking them and throwing large objects at them, but he attempted to set fire to vehicles with officers inside.

“The most horrifying aspect of this offending is that he wasn’t simply trying to burn the vehicles, he was knowingly endangering officers’ lives and the lives of others in the area.

“These are officers who come to work every day to protect the public, they should never be assaulted and should never have to face threats or attempts on their lives.”

He added: “The investigation team deserve great credit for their efforts so far in holding those involved to account for their actions and I know they won’t stop until every person identified is spoken to and every bit of evidence is assessed and if appropriate, put before the courts.”

James Le Grys, Crown Advocate for CPS said: “Six months on, this incident remains shocking due to the levels of violence used by those who hijacked an otherwise peaceful protest.

“Ryan Roberts was one of the main offenders and the violence he used extended to attempting to set light to an occupied police vehicle. Today he’s been convicted for his part in the dreadful scenes caught on video. We’ve worked closely with the Police to deliver a coordinated response and support what has been a complex investigation.

“We respect the right to legal protest but when people resort to violence and destruction we will charge offences that reflect the gravity of the criminality.”

We’d like to remind all concerned that criminal proceedings relating to the events of Sunday 21 March are ongoing against other defendants and that they have a right to a fair trial.

It is extremely important there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.

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