Seventeen men have been acquitted of staging an unlawful protest at a loyalist march in north Belfast.

A judge dismissed the case after being told the defendants had simply gathered to watch the parade.

The 17 men were accused of breaking public parading laws when they stood on the footpath in Ardoyne as an Apprentice Boys parade passed by.

The prosecution case was that even though there were no placards or signs on display, by lining up and facing the road the men were staging an unlawful protest.

The defence argued the men were entitled to stand and observe the march.

The judge at Belfast Magistrates Court ruled that guilt had not been established beyond all reasonable doubt and all 17 defendants were acquitted.

They said they intend to sue the police and the prosecution service for violating their human rights.