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Shell to Sea Court Report, Westport, 18th June 2009
crime and justice |
Friday June 19, 2009 18:20 by FSB! - Rossport Solidarity Camp
Shell's Law speeds up to deliver summary justice
Four Rossport Solidarity Camp residents and Shell to Sea activists were up in court yesterday on various public order charges, arising from incidents that happened on the 10th and 11th of June 2009. Judge Mary Devins proceeded to hear the cases, reaching a verdict and sentence in three of them. A fourth case was adjourned until the 2nd of July.
Blocking the trucks, 10th June
First case – the State v E.L.
This case arose from a truck-blocking action that happened on the road in Glengad on the 10th of June. E. was arrested for being on the top of a truck that was attempting to carry materials into the Shell landfall site at Glengad.
E. was charged under the Public Order Act with the following:
Section 6: behaviour in a public place calculated to cause a breach of the peace,
Section 8: failing to obey the orders of a Garda in a public place,
Section 9: obstruction of traffic on a public highway.
E. entered a plea of not guilty through his solicitor Mr. Evan O'Dwyer. Mr. O'Dwyer argued that the Section 8 charge against E. be dropped for the reason that the roof of a truck (which was where E. was) is not a public place for the purposes of the Public Order Act. Judge Devins adjourned the case until the 2nd of July to give the prosecution time to find case law to counter the defence's argument.
Second case – the State v G. L.
This case arose from the same truck-blocking action in Glengad on the 10th of June. G. was arrested for being under the same truck E. was on the roof of, which was attempting to carry materials into the Shell landfall site at Glengad.
G. was charged under the Public Order Act with the following:
S6: behaviour in a public place calculated to cause a breach of the peace,
S9: obstruction of traffic on a public highway.
G. entered a plea of not guilty through his solicitor Mr. Alan Gannon. The Gardai who gave evidence for the prosecution were Sgt. Jimmy Murphy and Garda Kieran Lavelle. In defence Mr. Gannon argued that G. had reasonable excuse for his actions, that he acted to safeguard the health and safety of local residents by attempting to physically halt the progress of the Corrib Gas project. Judge Devins disallowed G. his defence and convicted him on both counts. He was fined €300, with one month to pay and five days of jail in default of the fine.
During this hearing Mr. Gannon stated that environmental concerns motivated G. to take the actions he took. Judge Devins put this to George, who answered that reasons of social justice and the defence of local residents' human rights were in fact his motivation for action. This reply was seized upon by the judge later in the day to excuse her denial of free legal aid to the defendants.
Third case – the State v B.W.
Arising from a marine action on the early morning of the 11th of June (the same early morning when Pat O'Donnell and Martin McDonnell were held at gunpoint at sea had their fishing boat sunk off Erris Head) B. was charged under the Public Order Act with:
S8.1.b: loitering in a public place in defiance of a Garda's order to leave.
B. entered a plea of not guilty through his solicitor Mr. O'Dwyer.
For the prosecution, Sgt. Tony Duignan gave evidence that 15 protestors came onto the water in kayaks at approximately 4:30 a.m. He stated that there were also 8 'safety/security' boats working with the Gardai. He said that shortly after the boats came on the water a mayday call was received, and one Garda boat left to investigate. He gave evidence that he directed B. twice to leave the area under the Public Order Act, and that he subsequently arrested him.
Under cross-examination from Mr. O'Dwyer, Sgt. Duignan stated there was no guarantee that work would be stopped on time if someone were to enter the work area. He also confirmed that work was not stopped, even though earlier he had agreed with Mr. O'Dwyer that it would have been advisable to have halted work if, as he had earlier stated, that B's presence in the work area was putting both the defendant and the workers in danger. Sgt. Duignan further confirmed that the marine exclusion zone was not well-defined (thereby placing B's presence in it in doubt), and that Shell security personnel intervened in the Garda operation, apprehending and detaining kayakers, but he neither confirmed nor denied Mr. O'Dwyer's assertion that Shell security attempted to interview those they detained.
Mr. O'Dwyer argued that B was not loitering as charged but rather that he was moving in the water, and thus that the charges against him be dismissed. Judge Devins once more disallowed this argument and found B guilty of the loitering charge. She fined him €300, with one month to pay and with five days of jail in default of the fine.
Fourth case – the State v K.S.
K's case was the last of the day's cases to be heard. Arising from the same marine action on the early morning of the 11th of June, she was charged under the Public Order Act with:
S8.1.b: loitering in a public place in defiance of a Garda's order to leave.
She entered a plea of guilty through her solicitor Mr. O'Dwyer. After a brief presentation of evidence by Sgt. Tony Duignan, Judge Devins asked K about how long she had been concerned about environmental matters. She answered that she'd been concerned about the environment and the planet all her life, that what was happening in Co. Mayo had saddened her, and that she felt that she had to act as she did against the dredging operations. K. was found guilty of the loitering charge, but instead of being convicted she was directed to pay €100 to Ballyglass lifeboat.
Legal Aid denied
In a departure from usual court procedure and practice to date in Judge Devins' court with Shell to Sea cases, she dealt with the defendants' free legal aid applications at the end of the day's session. Seizing upon the earlier statements made by G. and K. regarding their motivations, she stated that social justice was one of her major concerns and that this led her to turn down all four defendants' applications for legal aid, even though she had routinely approved applications for legal aid in Shell to Sea-related cases previously. She claimed that the legal aid system was being abused by being granted for cases such as these, and that she could not justify legal aid when people were losing their jobs and struggling to make ends meet, and that she was concerned with the expenditure of public money on legal aid This reporter wonders how she can justify such a stance about her concern for public funds when the valuable energy resources that lie off the coast of Ireland are being given away for nothing to multinational oil companies like Shell. It would make one wonder if this latest development has more to do with deterring protest against Shell's Corrib Gas project than any pretended concern for social justice or the reputation of the legal aid system. This was the final act of Shell Law in a marathon session of injustice that swallowed up twelve hours or more of the campers' day.
To summarise, justice is speeding up in Shell's courts, defending oneself in court against Shell is becoming more expensive, and getting convicted in Shell's courts is getting more expensive too. If you are arrested by Shell's cops then your court case will be heard in short order, should this day's session serve as a template for the future. It used to be said that justice delayed is justice denied, but justice sped up and justice made dear is more to Shell's liking.