herald

Sunday 20 August 2017

Water protesters freed over glitch in warrant

Irish Water protesters Bernie Hughes, Paul Moore, Derek Byrne and Damien ONeill outside court yesterday after they where freed from jail by the President of the High Court after he upholded a challenge to the legality of a committal warrant grounding their detention
Irish Water protesters Bernie Hughes, Paul Moore, Derek Byrne and Damien ONeill outside court yesterday after they where freed from jail by the President of the High Court after he upholded a challenge to the legality of a committal warrant grounding their detention

Bernie Hughes - one of four anti-water charges protesters released from jailed for contempt of court - has demanded a 20-metre exclusion zone around contractors installing water metres be "taken away".

All four were freed yesterday following a hearing in the High Court.

At a previous hearing, Ms Hughes, Damien O'Neill, Paul Moore and Derek Byrne, were found in contempt of court.

Judge Paul Gilligan had ordered them to be committed to prison for breaching orders not to interfere with water meter installers, GMC Sierra.

Ms Hughes and Mr Byrne were each sentenced to 28 days. Mr O'Neill and Mr Moore were sentenced to 56 days.

They all returned to the High Court yesterday to take a habeus corpus case, challenging the legal basis for the court ruling.

The president of the court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, granted the application on the basis that the committal warrant was "lacking in a number of key respects".

He said while some may see these "flaws, errors or omissions in a committal warrant as merely technical in nature", they are "critical" under the Irish constitution.

READ MORE: Judge orders release of four water protesters

Speaking to the Herald, Bernie Hughes said she was "delighted" with the outcome.

"I was very hopeful we would be freed because we found a flaw in the law in a legal document. We were all prepared. I will continue to protest peacefully, as I have for the last year.

"We have been vindicated. The 20-metre exclusion zone needs to be taken away."

Micheal P O'Higgins SC, for Bernie Hughes and Damien O'Neill, argued his clients' detention was "unlawful" because of "fundamental defects".

While there was "no suggestion" that Judge Gilligan was "unfair" in his ruling, the application was based on the contention that the warrant for committal and detention was "defective".

Sean Gillane SC, appearing for the governor of Wheatfield Prison, described the application as "technical to the point of opportunistic".

Separately, protester Michael Batty, who was facing prison for breaching a court order not to interfere with water meter installers, apologised and promised not to breach any injunction.

A stay had been put on a prison order against Mr Batty of Edenmore Avenue, Raheny, until yesterday as he was in the Canary Islands for health reasons. However, Mr Justice Gilligan said in view of Mr Batty's attitude, he would suspend the jail committal.

hnews@herald.ie

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