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Protestors unlawfully detained

Mayo News

NINE Shell to Sea protesters had public order charges against them dismissed at last week's special sitting of Belmullet District Court after the Judge ruled that they had been unlawfully detained after their arrest.

The protesters had been involved in a 'lock-on' and 'tripod' protest at Glengad on June 28, 2009, and were arrested for public order offences including wilful obstruction, threatening and abusive behaviour as to cause a breach of the peace and failure to comply with the direction of the gardai.

The challenge was made by legal representatives for Mr Eoin Lawless, of [] Finglas who claimed that he was detained unlawfully for 27 hours, from the time of his arrest until his appearance in court.

The court heard that Mr Lawless was arrested at 2.40pm on Sunday, June 28 and held at the scene until 4.30pm before he was brought to Ballina Garda Station. He arrived at the station at 5.31pm and he wait[ed] until 9.15pm before being charged and cautioned.

He was detained overnight in Ballina Garda Station and only appeared before Ballina District Court on Monday, June 29 at 5.30pm. At the time Gardai were told this would be the earliest time that Judge Mary Devins would hear the case - 27 hours after he was first arrested.

Mr Leo Mulrooney, BL for the defendant argued that the constitutional rights of his client had been breached by his detention at the scene following his arrest and by the delay in bringing him to court. Superintendent Michael Larkin said that because of the number of people arrested the Garda station in Belmullet could not hold all the people and they had to be brought to Ballma. He added that the hearing in Ballina was the earliest opportunity they could bring the defendant before the courts.

After lengthy legal argument between Mr Mulrooney and Mr Vincent Deane, State Solicitor, Judge Gerard Haughton said he had to balance the right of the public to prosecute criminal matters and the constitutional right of the defendant

He said that there was a court in Galway sitting at 10.30am on June 29 and the defendant could and should have been brought before that court. He also added that the charges were not particularly serious and as a result this devalued the period in custody.

Judge Haughton said he was satisfied that there were no malfeasance on behalf of the gardai and they acted in good faith but added this was little comfort to the defendant who was held in custody for 27 hours. He said in those circumstances he was dismisses the charges.

As as result of the ruling, Inspector Joe McKenna asked that the charges against the remaining eight defendants be struck out