A mid-week update on Special Sitting for Corrib campaigners in Belmullet district court
On Tuesday Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway was handed two 3-month prison sentences for protesting against Shell's Corrib Gas Project. Throughout the week local residents have been protesting on the roads while many of their supporters are up in court in Belmullet, which so far has resulted in fines totalling 5,825 euro.
As of Wednesday evening, there are still 2 more people to go with 21 charges between them. So far 12 people have been convicted of 33 charges with fines totaling 5,825 euro. One person was given a 2 month prison sentence suspended for 12 months in exchange for signing a bond to the peace. Terence Conway, Shell to Sea spokesperson and local resident was given two 3 month prison sentences to be served concurrently, but he is currently out on bail pending an appeal in the circuit court.
With a few exceptions, most cases so far have been straightforward Public Order Sections 8&9 for blocking roads. Everyone who pled not-guilty got convicted and fined, and most who pled guilty got the Probation Act (no conviction) or got their case struck out entirely (with a 200 euro donation to a charity).
A few interesting details about court:
The last case to be heard on Monday resulted in a conviction and fine, despite what looked like very clear video footage refuting the charge. There were numerous contradictions in garda evidence, one in particular which caused major concern about garda conduct of the case. The case will be appealed in the circuit court.
During Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway's case on Tuesday, Mr. Conway spoke and gave evidence about the injustices faced by the community in Erris, including a clip of footage from the well known incident at McGrath's pier. Mr Conway stated that “What we have been subjected to by the actions of Shell and the State is worthy of a dictatorship. The police are working as an arm of the oil companies.” When the Judge responded that “This is a law-abiding country and there is justice for all in the country,” about 25 local residents and supporters walked out of the courtroom in protest. When a handful re-entered the courtroom and stood with their backs to the Judge in defiance, gardaí were fairly heavy handed in throwing them out of the courtroom without any formal request from the judge to do so or orders of contempt of court. Soon after, about 15-20 extra gardaí arrived on the scene and blocked off the entrance to the courtroom. The crowd waited in the lobby of the courthouse waiting for the case to finish surrounded by a circle of gardaí, and no one was allowed back inside.
On Wednesday a stenographer was disallowed from making an audio recording of the court proceedings, despite this being common practice. When asked for a reason by the defence council, the Judge ruled that he did not want it falling into 'the wrong hands.'
Also on Wednesday one person's criminal damage charges were dropped after a director of IRMS security testifying against the defendant changed his story in court regarding evidence. The Shell security initially claimed he had detailed notes taken of the incident, and later admitted that he had no such notes.
A few details from this week outside of court:
On Monday local residents blocked Shell's haulage route between Bellanaboy refinery and the compound in Glengad while many of their supporters were up in court.
On Tuesday morning as people from the Rossport Solidarity Camp were coming out onto the road getting ready to leave for court, a group of about 20 gardaí arrived to clear the road for a Shell convoy returning from the compound in Glengad. People were pushed back through the gates to the camp and one person's walking stick was taken off him and thrown into a ditch. When the person went to retrieve it they were held face down into briars in the ditch for over a minute while the convoy passed (see photos).
Also on Tuesday, a group of local residents were on the Shell haulage route waiting to block a convoy. After awhile when none came, people dispersed to bring their children to school and it was during school pick-up time that the convoy passed. In Shell's traffic management plan, the convoys are not meant to use the road during times when many locals use the road such as funerals and school pick-up times.
On Wednesday morning before court a group of local residents arrived to the Rossport Solidarity Camp to show their solidarity with the many people up in court for supporting the community of Erris and taking action against Shell.
Stay tuned through shelltosea.com and twitter as court continues this week. 21 charges between 2 people are left to be dealt with.