Kill the Bill protester convicted of arson after police vehicles torched at Bristol riot

Ryan Roberts was found guilty of five charges

A protester has been convicted of trying to endanger the life of a police officer by torching a van during the riot that followed the 'Kill the Bill' demonstrations in Bristol.

Ryan Roberts told an officer inside one of the vans he would “go bang”, Bristol Crown Court heard.

The 25-year-old led protesters in chants of "ACAB: All cops are b******s" outside Bridewell Police Station on the afternoon of Sunday 21 March.

He threw bottles, cans and placards at officers before smashing in the windows of the police station.

Ryan Roberts, of no fixed abode, denied all of the charges against him and has been on trial at Bristol Crown Court.

Ryan Roberts, 25, was convicted of arson with intent to endanger life.

The jury found him guilty of the following five charges today (29 October):

  • Riot

  • Arson

  • Arson being reckless as to whether life was in danger on a Ford police car 

  • Attempted arson with intent to endanger life on one police van

  • Attempted arson being reckless as to whether life was in danger on a second police van

Two alternative counts of attempted arson were left to lie on the court file.

During the trial, the court heard Roberts told one officer trapped inside the vehicle 'you're going to go bang' as he attempted to set the van on fire.

The officer at the driver's wheel, PC Richard Grant, told the court he was worried for his safety, fearing he might get caught inside.

  • Watch: Footage shown in court from night of riot

Forty-four officers were injured during the riot “in terrifying scenes of violence, fire and missiles”, the prosecutor said.

In further footage of the night, Roberts, who admitted to drinking and taking drugs that day, could be seen on the roof of the police station.

He also smashed the police station's windows, threw cans, bottles and placards at officers and verbally abusing and kicking them.

Roberts said he was fighting for a cause he felt strongly about and was upset by the way police reacted on the night.

He said he got “carried away” fighting for freedom of speech.

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.”

Ryan Roberts Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

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.”

Sentencing has been adjourned with a date to be set.