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Wednesday June 14, 2017 15:44 by Court Reporters
After a year waiting, peace activists are "dumped" from Disrict Court jurisdiction
On 24 May 2017, two peace activists Dave Donnellan and Colm Roddy were sent for jury trial because the District Court judge finally refused to accept jurisdiction. The judge said the alleged criminal damage newly set at €3,500 was so large as to make it a serious charge.
THE STORY BEFORE 24 MAY 2017
1. THE ACTION AT SHANNON AIRPORT
A year earlier, on 25 May 2016 a 6 a.m., Colm and Dave entered Shannon airport in a faith-based protest against the use of the civilian airport by US military on their way to war zones. They traversed the runway and sprayed it with a small number of red crosses. Making their way to a US military plane they were attempting to examine it when they were arrested. Held all day and overnight, they were charged in Gort Co Galway District court with causing criminal damage amounting to €300 to the perimeter fence and were banned by Judge Faughnan from entering Co Clare as a condition of bail.
2. FIRST HEARING AT ENNIS DISTRICT COURT
The first hearing of the case was on 20 July 2016 in Ennis District Court. Both Dave and Colm requested disclosure from the State including information on two US military aircraft that were present in Shannon on 25 May 2016. Both also requested variation of bail terms. Both cases were adjourned to 14 September 2016. An excellent account of the day's proceedings can be read at
3 SECOND APPEARANCE IN ENNIS DISTRICT COURT
On 14 September 2016, the two peace activists had their bail conditions changed by Judge Durcan and are now banned "only" from entering within 5 miles of the airport. At the time of writing this has been further reduced to a one mile limit). Dave got a massive tome by way of "discovery" and Colm's application for the details of the personnel and cargo on the two aforementioned American aircraft was refused. Their cases were adjourned to 16 November 2016.
4. THIRD APPEARANCE - CASE AGAINST COLM DISMISSED
On 16 November 2016, Colm and Dave were re-arrested on their arrival in Ennis District Court and new charges presented against them. The alleged criminal damage was now increased from €300 to a whopping €3500. As always, Colm and Dave were heard in alphabetical order, Dave coming first. When Colm was called he protested vigorously about his arrest that morning and the fact that the alleged criminal damage figure had increased more than ten fold. Judge Durcan then dismissed the new charges against him because of unfairness and told him that he was free to go. "Keep walking", he advised. Dave's next "for mention" date was fixed for 11 January 2017. Inspector Kennedy was absent.
5. NEXT APPEARANCE IN ENNIS: DAVE GIVEN A TRIAL DATE
On 11 January 2017, Judge Durcan set a District Court trial date set for Dave, namely 23 May 2017.
6. COLM'S STRIKE OUT APPEALED - NEW JUDGE IN ENNIS SETS NEW MENTION DATE
On 15 February 2017 Judge Gráinne O'Neill replaced Judge Durcan and the prosecuting Inspector Kennedy pleaded ignorance of what exactly had happened in his absence when the case against Colm had been struck out. The Inspector had meanwhile appealed the strike out of Colm's case to the DPP and Colm was re-arrested and charged again. Judge O'Neill accepted jurisdiction but after vigorous argument postponed the cases again to 15 March 2017 to be dealt with by Judge Durcan.
7 CONFUSION IN ENNIS DISTRICT COURT LEAVES COLM FACING NEW MENTION DATE
On 15 March, Judge Durcan was back in Ennis but Inspector Kennedy was absent. The Judge had initially forgotten that he had struck out the case against Colm in November and the replacement Inspector could not help him with what had happened in the court of Judge Grainne O'Neill. The Judge Durcan later said he had a vague recollection of having dismissed the case but had no definite information and no papers in front of him on the matter. The cases were adjourned to 26 April 2017.
The case was later put back from 26 April to 3 May 2017.
8 DISCOVERY REFUSED TO COLM IN ENNIS DISTRICT COURT
On 3 May 2017, Judge Durcan refused disclosure to Colm re the US military aircraft that were present at Shannon on the day of the protest (in May 201). Colm gave notice of his intention to appeal this ruling and the Judge set a mention date of 24 May 2017 to allow time to consider the appeal of his refusal.
COURT REPORT FOR 24 MAY 2017
Inspector Tom Kennedy had phoned Colm on 15 May 2017, requesting that he agree to appear for trial on 23 May 2017 with his co-defendant instead of 24 May 2017, his own mention date. When Colm refused this request, the Inspector phoned Dave requesting that he agree to defer his trial date to 24 May 2017 for mention. Dave agreed on the understanding that he would then be given a new District Court trial date.
So, both Dave and Colm were back in Ennis District Court on 24 May 2017.
As always, Dave's case came first. Judge Durcan addressed him and dropped a bombshell. As the amount of "criminal damage" assessed on the charge sheet was so large - €3,500 - this was a serious charge, he said. He was therefore now refusing jurisdiction and sending Dave for jury trial before the Circuit Court. He set a "mention date" for 12 July 2017, to give time for the prosecution to serve the Book of Evidence, which the prosecutor, Inspector Kennedy, had agreed to make available by then. In vain, Dave complained to the court that the Inspector had failed to keep his promise (15 May 2017) hat he would send Dave a letter confirming the trial date cancellation and the new "mention date".
Colm was called some time later and he was accompanied by his McKenzie friend, Seán Ryan. Judge Durcan repeated in substance what he had said to Dave. Again, he refused jurisdiction for the same reasons (large amount of alleged criminal damage and seriousness of the charge). He sent Colm for jury trial before the Circuit Court.
Colm, who had not clearly heard or understood Judge Durcan's previous remarks to Dave, was shocked and outraged. He told the Judge that he felt a deep, deep sense of injustice. He then proceeded to list the seven "mention dates" when he had travelled from Dublin to attend Ennis District Court. (See above) The current proceedings (24 May 2017), had been set to allow him three weeks to consider his appeal against the refusal of aircraft disclosure.
He also referred to the prosecutorial incompetence behind the confusing situation at which point a somewhat subdued Judge Durcan absolved the prosecutor, Inspector Tom Kennedy, and accepted responsibility himself.
After consulting with the Inspector, Judge Durcan set a date of 12 July 2017 for the prosecution to present the Book of Evidence to Colm.