THREE men and a teenage boy have appeared in court after a ‘disturbance’ at a funeral in on Thursday.
Police seized hatchets, knives and other weapons after the service at a church on Melmount Road in Strabane.
The BBC reports that the men were given suspended prison sentences at Derry Magistrates’ Court on Friday after admitting charges linked to the disturbance.
The judge said had it not been for the “prompt action of the police there could have been a bloodbath”.
He described the incident, in which one group attending the funeral was attacked by another, as “disgraceful”.
It appeared the weapons seized by police were new and had been bought for the event, he added.
John Anthony Doherty, 32, of Riverside Caravan Park in Queensbury in Wales, pleaded guilty to possessing a knife and cocaine and driving without insurance or L-plates.
A police officer told the court that officers were on duty at the funeral in Strabane due to concerns about public order.
They stopped vehicles, one driven by Doherty, who told police he had a knife to repair fences and had forgotten about it.
He was sentenced to five months in prison suspended for three years, fined £425 and disqualified from driving for a year.
Gerry Stokes, 22, of Kearney Villas in Gulladuff, Co Derry, admitted possessing a meat cleaver.
A police officer told the court that Stokes was seen in the church car park discarding a meat cleaver under a parked vehicle.
When questioned by police, he claimed he had taken it from another person but refused to say who and added that he was getting rid of it in case someone got hurt.
The judge said what Stokes was claiming was “plausible” but that it was clear that “some people came armed to do serious harm to others”.
Stokes was sentenced to three months in prison suspended for a year.
Thomas Scully, 18, of Donegal Road in Ballybofey in Co Donegal was arrested before the funeral.
He was charged with being disorderly at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry and possessing a knife and a screwdriver in the early hours of Thursday.
The court was told that Scully was to have attended the funeral in Strabane but was in custody before it started.
He told police the screwdriver he had was for repairing kitchen cabinets and the knife was only in his possession because it was in the pocket of a jacket he had borrowed.
Scully pleaded guilty to the charges against him and was sentenced to three months in prison suspended for two years.
A 17-year-old boy was also charged with two counts of possessing an axe.
Bail was not opposed and the youth was released to appear again in court again on 20 March.