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Shell to Sea court cases - 11th June
crime and justice |
Tuesday June 17, 2008 01:29 by Rudiger - S2S
Back In Court
Below is a rundown on a Shell to Sea case heard last week, and a brief update on some of the latest happenings.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the case against 4 Shell to Sea protestors was heard at Belmullet and Ballycroy District Court. Its worth nothing Wednesday was the one year anniversary of the Pollathomais Pier incident, when gardaí forced their way onto the pier through a crowd with the help of a JCB in order to place a security hut, against the wishes of the landowner
Related Links: S2S on indy.ie CorribSOS.com
The case that was heard involves Michael Healy, Martin & Pat O’Donnell and Patrick Coyle, who are each charged with obstruction (Section 19.3 of the Public Order Act) and a Section 2 assault from an incident that occurred on the 19th January 2007.
After the State finished making their case against the 4 men, solicitor for the accused, Alan Gannon sought to have the case dismissed saying that to proceed would be unfair and could lead to a miscarriage of justice. His arguments in seeking the dismissal were (a) the gardaí in their prosecution had never identified his clients as the people involved (b) the delay in bringing the charges and the suggestion that the gardaí only prosecuted on finding out the proceedings had been started against some of the gardaí involved (c) no investigation had occurred into how the 7 minutes of missing garda footage had come about. (d) The bringing of 2 sets of charges arising from the same incident and also the choice of charges sought (i.e. to ensure a district court case). (e) That so far the whole process has taken 18 months and the States case leaves a lot to be desired.
Judge Mary Devins stated that the “totality isn’t a pretty picture” and that she was particularly interesting about the choice of charges issue, however the High Court has previously ruled that the State may chose from any of the hierarchy of assault charges. She however adjourned the case until the 23rd July for mention in order to establish the law regarding points (a) and (d) above.
The case opened with Alan Gannon seeking for the case to be dismissed as 2 of the gardai involved in the incident would have known that a complaint had been initiated against them in January 2007 well before proceedings were initiated against the men. This was refused by Judge Devins.
Then Paul Vella of Evidence Matters Ltd gave evidence for the defence that the video tape containing the garda footage certainly hadn’t been tampered with. However he stated that the reason for the camera switching off for the 7 minutes while the alleged assaults took place was that the photo button had been pressed on the video camera. While in video record mode this had the effect of first of all freezing the camera on a particular frame for 7 seconds and then switching off the camera. The photo button required a double press action which he concluded could only have come about from a person pressing the button (either deliberately or accidentally). Mr Vella also stated that due to the angle of the freeze frame, the photo button had been pressed when the camera was at head height and not while it was up on the monopod.
Garda Greg Burke then gave evidence that he accepted that pressing the photo button had switched off the camera but that he certainly hadn't done it deliberately. He guessed that it must have happened as he was opening up the monopod in order to raise the camera up. Grd. Burke then tried to blame the protestors for the missing footage stating that he was "being pushed and shoved and threats made to me and my camera". He stated that the screen wasn't open at the time so he didn't notice the camera wasn't recording while it was up on the monopod. He stated that when he got back to the station he was embarrassed and angry with himself when he found that he had missed the incident. He also stated that he resented the insinuation initially made that he had somehow doctored the video tape which would be a highly criminal act.
Mr Gannon then sought another dismissal of the case saying that to proceed would be unsafe seeing as evidence that should have been available to the State and his defendants wasn't available, and that no adequate explanation into how this happened had been put forward. Judge Devins however stated that she didn't know what would or could have been on that tape and so refused the dismissal sought.
The first guard to give evidence was Garda Marvin Lee who stated that on the morning in question about 80 Shell to Sea protestors had attended the daily picket. He stated that the crowd stopped on the bridge and became hostile. He said that Michael Healy stepped out on to the other side of the road in order to block the oncoming Shell workers. Grd Lee said when he went over to Mr Healy that became abusive and attempted to headbutt him; however he had managed to avoid the headbutt. He stated that Pat O'Donnell then grabbed him by the lapel and dragged him into the crowd. Following this he stated that he was hit by a number of people in and around the shoulders. He stated that he had then been retrieved from the crowd by Garda Peter Lee (his father). Grd Marvin Lee stated that he had received no injuries and was just sore afterwards but had continued on with his duties for the day.
Under questioning from Mr Gannon, Grd Marvin Lee told the court that he was a former All-Ireland Boxing champion. Mr Gannon said that the evidence of his clients would be that Sgt Dermot Butler had pointed out Michael Healy and told the gardaí to take him out of the crowd. Their evidence would be that Grd M. Lee then grabbed Mr Healy and attempted to pull him to the other side of the road but that Patrick Coyle had held on to Michael Healy. Their evidence would then be that Patrick Coyle was then punched in the face and had retreated into the crowd shouting that garda RG144 (Grd M. Lee's former number) had hit him. Mr Gannon said his clients would claim that Patrick Coyle was then followed into the crowd by Grd Peter Lee and that he assaulted Mr Coyle from behind and kicked Mr Coyle on the ground. Mr Gannon said it would then be claimed that Pat O'Donnell went to restrain Grd Peter Lee from further injuring Mr Coyle, however that Pat O'Donnell was himself then assaulted and that then Martin O'Donnell came to his brother Pat's assistance and was also assaulted. However Grd Marvin Lee denied that any of this occurred.
Grd M. Lee stated that he couldn't remember when an investigating officer (of the old Garda Complaints Board) had contacted him regarding the incident but that he hadn't made a statement.
Under questioning Grd M. Lee stated that he had seen Pat O'Donnell with blood on his face later in the morning but hadn't investigated it as no complaint was made to him. It was put to him that he didn't investigate because he knew full well how the blood had come about, but Grd M. Lee denied this.
Garda Peter Lee, father of Garda Marvin Lee, was the next guard to give evidence. He stated that he saw Pat O'Donnell holding on to his son, and that he was being punched by other protestors and that it looked to him as if Pat O'Donnell was attempting to throw his son over the barrier. Garda Peter Lee said that he had to use a certain amount of force to retrieve Garda Marvin Lee.
Under questioning Grd P. Lee also stated he was a boxer and that he had been only 2 or 3 paces behind his son as they were on the bridge. He admitted he hadn't seen Michael Healy out on the road or hadn't seen Michael Healy's alleged attempted headbut on his son. It was then put to Grd P. Lee that he had assaulted both Patrick Coyle and Pat O'Donnell, however he denied this. Mr Gannon said that Pat O'Donnell would claim that 2 guards held his hands while Garda Peter Lee punched him in the face.
When asked why he hadn't investigated the blood he saw on the faces of the O'Donnell brothers, Grd P. Lee stated that he believed that a local member of the gardaí would have dealt with it.
When the case resumed in Ballycroy court the following morning, the next 2 guards to give evidence were Garda Thomas and Garda Regan. During his evidence Garda Regan said that he saw Garda M. Lee being punched in the face and stomach by Michael Healy, Pat & Martin O'Donnell. When it was put to him by Mr Gannon that Grd M. Lee hadn't claimed to have been punched in the face or stomach, Grd Regan stated that "that's exactly what I seen".
The final guard to give evidence was Sgt. Michael Kleisham, RG33 (although has been known to change his numbers). He stated that a camera crew had been present on that morning and that there was a totally different atmosphere because of the camera crew. Sgt Kleisham stated that he saw Patrick Coyle with a full fist about to strike Grd M. Lee, however he had grabbed him and pulled him back to stop him making contact. Sgt Kleisham stated that he saw protestors "rain punches down" on Grd M. Lee. Sgt Kleisham stated that he saw Pat O Donnell at 10:00am but that he hadn't enquired about the blood on his face at all.
Sgt Kleisham was asked why, if he had seen people assaulting gardaí, why weren't they arrested there and then, however he said that it wouldn't have been possible at the time. Mr Gannon also questioned him as to why a statement hadn't been taken from any of the passing drivers, the visiting camera crew, or any other protestors, however Sgt Kleisham said he believed he had enough evidence from what he saw. He was also asked why the 4 accused had never been asked to give a statement and that the first they had heard of the charges was on the 22nd August, 7 months after the incident.
Following this Alan Gannon sought again to have the case dismissed however Judge Devins adjourned the case until the 23rd July.
Overall it has to be said that everything about this case stinks to high heavens. The fact is that 3 protestors ended up with injuries from the protest that morning. Two of the protesters had to go to hospital with cuts and bruises to their faces while the third broke his tooth after being knocked to the ground and had to go to the dentist. All garda witnesses denied seeing any assault or inappropriate behaviour towards any of the protestors. Therefore it seems obvious that some or all of the guards haven't told the truth or the whole truth. On the other hand, the guard who it is claimed had punches raining down on him from various protestors was able to walk away and continue on his duties for the day.
The whole timing of the prosecution is highly suspicious. The incident occurred on the 19th of January 2007. On that day or shortly after, Patrick Coyle made a complaint to Belmullet Garda Station however he never followed up on the complaint. An investigating officer started to make inquiries. The four accused instead started separate proceedings against some of the gardai involved. The first the 4 accused heard of the charges was on the 22nd of August.
Also whole missing video footage hasn't been fully explained. It is again highly suspicious that an incident which involves the alleged assault of 3 local residents is not recorded by the gardaí when the gardaí seem to film everything and everyone else. In his statement regarding the missing footage Supt. Joe Gannon stated that the camera was switched off while it was up on the monopod when in fact the camera switched off when it was at head height.
Meanwhile cases involving Maura & Sean Harrington were adjourned pending Ms Harrington’s High Court review of Judge Devins’ decision not to allow her access to the stenographer’s notes. It’s worth noting that the stenographer (who is employed by the Court Service) was present at both courts, is only taking notes at Shell to Sea cases. The stenographer arrived just for the Shell to Sea case in Ballycroy on Thursday and left after it was finished. Meanwhile the case of two men charged with trespass and damage to a fence relating to an incident on Coillte land when RPS were drilling there on the 26th October last, had their cases adjourned until next October.
In other news regarding the Corrib Gas Project, Mayo County Council have hit a bit of trouble with the road they are building for Shell to the proposed landfall site. A lot of the local landowners have refused to allow Mayo County Council access to their land for widening the road. I hope to do a full story on this shortly.
Over the last few weeks, there have been several submission deadline dates with regard to the new proposed pipeline route planning application. On the 6th of June, 86 submissions were hand delivered into the Department of Energy, while over 30 were handed it last Friday with others being posted and emailed in. There are 2 submissions deadlines on the 25th June, one on the CAO issue and the other under the Strategic Infrastructure Bill to An Bord Pleanala.
Shell currently has a survey platform on Srawaddacon Bay testing the ground under the bay. They have also drafted in new security who have given a taste of what life is going to be like with Shell as neighbours. They have taken to filming everyone who goes down on to Glengad beach even if they are nowhere near the proposed landfall area. Complaints have gone into gardai regarding families with small children being filmed and also finding the security lying in the grass spying on beach-goers with binoculars. I assume these men are security however they have no identifying clothing on and refuse to identify either themselves or the company they work for. Last Friday I approached them because they filmed me, and while taking pictures of them I noticed one of them was wearing a balaclava, which on this case was rolled up but I’m told not on other occasions. Unfortunately my camera memory card seems to have rather suspiciously gone missing. However I’ve attached a few pictures I took today, when again I was filmed while going for a swim. The local Superintendent has promised to raise the issue with Shell at their next meeting!!!
No permission to come any further
Platform drilling on Srawaddacon Bay (SPA)
Filming Glengad Beachgoers