A PROTESTER planned to cause city centre chaos when he climbed on top of Wearmouth Bridge.
David Hann planned to spend the night on top of the road bridge and cause maximum disruption to rush- hour commuters the next morning.
The 45-year-old had scaled the high structure at around 9pm on March 8, hoping to use his overnight stand-off as a way to highlight his feud with Sunderland City Council.
But he was persuaded to come down at around two in the morning – in return for a cigarette.
By then police, ambulance, fire brigade and coastguard services had all been drafted in.
Hann, of Toward Road, Hendon, denied a charge of public nuisance, but he was found guilty by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court after just half an hour of deliberation.
Prosecutor Roger Moore said it was “cold, blustery and wet” when Hann climbed on top of the bridge over the River Wear.
Mr Moore told jurors: “A large number of local inhabitants were fairly inconvenienced by this man’s behaviour.
“The reason why he was on the bridge was to publicise, or make known to all and sundry, the difficulties he was having.
“He decided this was the way in which he was going to air his grievance or bring attention to it, by climbing onto the bridge.
“He chose this deliberately in order to cause disturbance, as much as he could.
“It would seem his intention was not just to go up and come down.
“He was going to sleep right through the night and then catch the really busy morning traffic and cause absolute chaos.”
The court heard the emergency services used a “cherry picker” to get close to Hann at the top of the bridge and convinced him to use a harness they gave him to strap himself to the metal structure and prevent himself from falling.
Hann agreed to that, which meant the road could be re-opened.
However, Mr Moore said: “As soon as he realised what was going on, that he was no longer disrupting it, he took the harness off, threw it down onto the road and continued his clambering around so the bridge had to be closed again.”
The court heard it was around 2am Hann started asking for a cigarette.
Mr Moore said: “He was told the only way he could have it was if he came down.
“Eventually he came down for a cigarette and he was arrested.”
Hann admitted during the one-day trial that he was on the bridge that night, but denied causing a public nuisance.
He was remanded in custody after the verdict and will be sentenced next month.
Judge Paul Sloan told him: “All sentencing options remain open to the sentencing judge.
“In all likelihood you face an immediate custodial term.”