Page last updated at 18:13 GMT, Tuesday, 2 March 2010

'Spiderman' Big Wheel climber convicted

The man on top of the Belfast Wheel
Patrick Joyce climbed 200 feet to the top of the wheel

A man who climbed to the top of Belfast's Big Wheel has been found guilty of disorderly behaviour and aggravated trespass.

Patrick Joyce, a member of the Traveller community, climbed 200 feet to the top of the attraction last June.

He said he did so to highlight discrimination against Travellers.

He denied an accusation from a prosecuting lawyer that he thought he was "some kind of Travelling Spiderman".

"Just to get publicity for your rights you are going to do these sort of activities?" Terence Mallon asked him.

Joyce will be sentenced next month after reports are prepared.

Belfast Magistrates Court heard there had been previous incidents where he had climbed a crane and hung from a motorway flyover.

Joyce, a 38-year-old father of five, claimed to have acted after suffering years of racist abuse and attacks.

He said he wanted to highlight the accommodation problems of Travellers who staged a six-day occupation at the gates of City Hall.

"When I was up on that wheel I cried my heart out," he told the court.

"I looked down at those caravans and they were cut to bits. Every night people were banging on them and shouting 'dirty gypsies'."

He said he had not cared whether he fell or not.

However, after he spoke of how the Traveller community had been "terrorised", prosecutor, Mr Mallon accused him of showing no concern for the five people trapped in pods for nearly three hours as the drama unfolded in the grounds of City Hall.

"Did you care about the human rights of those people in those pods?" he asked.

'Stripping off'

Earlier, Richard Stewart, a security guard on duty at the wheel at the time, told of his astonishment at seeing Mr Joyce begin his ascent.

Mr Stewart said he thought Joyce had been drinking as he was "swaying" when he got out of a taxi before starting his climb.

He added: "When he climbed up the wheel he started stripping off, he started losing his clothing.

"He was shouting something but I couldn't understand what he was shouting."

Joyce denied he had been drinking, and claimed instead to have been on heavy medication.

After hearing all evidence District Judge George Conner convicted him of both disorderly behaviour by shouting and taking off his clothes, and aggravated trespass through disruption.

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