herald

Monday 18 December 2017

Water protesters may face jail or fines over contempt allegations

Bernie Hughes
Bernie Hughes
Damien O’Neill
Paul Moore

The High Court has reserved judgment in the case of seven water charge protesters facing jail or a fine if found in contempt of court regarding the obstruction of water meter installation.

The court spent much of yesterday listening to affidavits and viewing footage which a meter installation company says shows the six men and one woman breaching a court order.

The court was told that the seven Dubliners had previously been ordered not to go within 20 metres of contractors installing meters and not to interfere with the entrance and exit of the company's vehicles.

They are Damien O'Neill of Greenwood Park, Coolock; Paul Moore of Mount Olive Grove, Kilbarrack; Bernie Hughes of McKelvey Avenue, Finglas; Mark Egan of Tonlegee Drive, Raheny; Richard Larkin of Mount Olive Road, Kilbarrack; Michael Batty of Edenmore Avenue, Raheny; and Derek Byrne of Streamville Road, Donaghmede.

All were in court apart from Mr Batty who, the court was told, needed to be in a dry and sunny climate due to chronic asthma.

The High Court had, on November 5, granted an order to GMC Sierra Ltd, establishing the 20-metre exclusion zone around locations where its workers were installing meters in Dublin city.

GMC, which had a contract to install meters, had already secured injunctions preventing a number of individuals or anyone who had notice of the order from assaulting, intimidating or interfering with workers installing the meters.

The company secured the orders after its lawyers told the High Court that its workers had been harassed and threatened while installing meters in certain areas.

BREACHED

GMC has now moved contempt of court proceedings against seven protesters on grounds that they allegedly breached the November 5 order in the Phibsboro and Stoneybatter areas in December.

Jim O'Callaghan SC, for GMC Sierra, read into the record affidavits of a number of people engaged by the company to carry out surveillance on protests.

Three of these evidence-gathering operatives also provided video footage, which was played in court. They alleged that they had seen all of the seven people within the 20-metre exclusion zones and had seen a number of them remove safety barriers and interfere with workers.

Dozens of supporters were in court 21 of the Criminal Courts of Justice to watch the proceedings, which wer e also observed by several gardai.

The three operatives, along with two agents from another company, were called to the witness box to be cross-examined by Patrick McGrath SC, who was representing all seven people.

Mr McGrath said that it should trouble the court that none of the witnesses knew any of his clients before the case and could identify them in the footage only by someone else pointing out who they were.

However, he said that if the court was satisfied that they were the people named in question, then it was difficult to say there was not a breach of the court order.

Mr Justice Gilligan will give his decision this Thursday morning.

hnews@herald.ie

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