‘Kill the bill' protestor who set fire to police van with officer inside jailed for 14 years

·4 min read
A police van is set alight in Bristol city centre. (SWNS)
A police van is set alight in Bristol city centre. (SWNS)

A protestor who tried to set fire to two police vans with officers inside during the 'Kill the bill' riots in Bristol has been jailed for 14 years.

Ryan Roberts, 25, was caught on camera telling an officer driving one of the vans he was going to “go bang” on 21 March this year.

The jury heard the defendant took a leading role in the disorder over several hours and were shown a compilation of his offending lasting 34 minutes.

The footage, made up of CCTV, mobile phone footage and officers body-worn video, showed Roberts climbing on the roof of the Bridewell Police Station and leading offensive chants about police.

Watch: Officer describes being inside police van as protester tried to set it on fire

Ryan Roberts, 25, was jailed for 14 years. (PA)
Ryan Roberts, 25, was jailed for 14 years. (PA)

Roberts, of no fixed address, was then captured throwing missiles at police officers, kicking their shields and striking one with his hand before attacking the Bridewell.

He was later filmed on multiple occasions attempting to start a fire under the wheel arch of a police van with an officer inside telling him it was going to explode.

Roberts 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.

The court was shown footage of the defendant holding a piece of burning cardboard under a police van, with seven officers were inside, as it reversed.

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.

He 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, following a four day trial at Bristol Crown Court.

Judge James Patrick said Roberts was “actively involved in attacking the police”, played a “leading role” in trying to smash into Bridewell Police Station and “used the uncontrollable weapon of fire”.

Extracts from victim impact statements written by officers were read out at Friday’s hearing.

An officer said: “I was sat in a van and heard over the radio that my van was on fire.

“I sat in that van, unable to move it as the tyres had been let down, unable to see out of the driver’s side as the window had been sprayed over and the wing mirror smashed off…I wondered how I could get out the van with the doors bolted closed, in my heavy bulky uniform.

“I thought I must take the van keys with me, as I could smell burning and the van started to fill with smoke.”

Several police officers were injured in the riots in March. (SWNS)
Several police officers were injured in the riots in March. (SWNS)
Twelve people have been sentenced as part of the ongoing investigation into the riot. (SWNS)
Twelve people have been sentenced as part of the ongoing investigation into the riot. (SWNS)

Another extract added: “I came to the conclusion that it was better to sit in a burning van.

“To hope that my overalls would protect me from some of the flames…I actually sat in my van and had to decide whether I would rather be dragged into a crowd alone and seriously assaulted or sit there and potentially burn.

“That is not a decision I would wish anyone else to have to take.”

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Detective Superintendent James Riccio, the senior investigating officer, said: “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.

In total, 12 people have now been sentenced as part of the ongoing investigation into the riot, being given a combined total of almost 50 years in prison to date.

Watch: What happened at the ‘Kill the bill’ protest in Bristol?

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