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Court dismisses obstruction charge

Mayo News

A SHELL to Sea protester who suspended himself from the ground on a 20 foot tripod on Glengad beach was cleared of charges against him at last week's sitting of Belmullet District Court.

Eoin O’ Leidhin of Barrnacullen, Pollathomas, along with another protester, erected the tripod on Glengad beach at 5.30am on May 14, 2009 and remained in place until 6pm. Tripods of this nature have been deployed by campaigners around the world as a form of direct action, but it is believed that this was the first time tripods have been used in Ireland for this purpose.

Mr O’ Leidhin was charged with wilful obstruction and failing to comply with the direction of a garda but was cleared after Judge Gerald Haughton dismissed the charges.

Sergeant Pat Lavelle told the court that he was on duty in the Shell compound in Glengad where workers were preparing to erect a fence from the compound into the water. He said that at 5.30am he saw nine people erect two tripods and observed Mr O’ Leidhin climb to the top of one, and sit on a seat. He said due to the tripods position workers were unable to commence work.

Under questioning from Mr O’ Leidhin, who represented himself, Sgt Lavelle said he thought it was extremely dangerous and did not want to go near it. However, he acknowledged that he had to give him some credit for the structure and agreed that some thought must have gone into it.

Inspector Joe Doherty explained that he had received complaints from the management on the site that they could not do any work because of the tripods. He said he feared for the safety of the defendant, the people in the vicinity and the workers and asked him to come down in a peaceful manner.

Under questioning from Mr O’ Leidhin, Inspector Doherty said that he spoke to him on a number of times during the day but Mr O’ Leidhin said he only spoke to him once that day.

In evidence, Mr O’ Leidhin said he was eight hours on the tripod before Inspector Doherty asked him to come down and he claimed that Insp Doherty told him, 'I will give you time'. When this was shown on a tape of the incident, Judge Haughton dismissed the charge saying that this indicated that the defendant would be given more time before he was required again to come down and said he could not convict on the basis of the evidence given in court and the contents of the tape shown in court.

He also dismissed the obstruction charge saying that there was no evidence showing that the defendant knew he was preventing the safe passage of vehicles, though this was undoubtedly so.