Report on Appearance of Peace Activist Colm Roddy in Ennis Court (Feb 15th)

From our Court Correspondent

This case arises as a result of a communicative peace activist protest action taken by Colm Roddy and Dave Donnelan on 25 May 2016, when they entered Shannon airport to search two US military aircraft, which they felt legally and morally obliged to search, because Gardai at Shannon airport have been directed by the Irish Government not to search or investigate any US military aircraft at Shannon airport.

When the case was called there was confusion from the outset, caused partly by the fact that at the last hearing held on 16th November 2016, when the case against Colm Roddy was struck out by Judge Durcan, neither Inspector Kennedy not Judge Grainne O'Neill, who was presiding today, were present, so both were new to the complexities of Colm's present legal situation.

Colm Roddy said he was very surprised to find himself in court again today as Judge Durcan had struck out the charges against him on 16th November last. He had been told that the authorities had "appealed" Judge Durcan's decision to strike out the charges to the Director of Public Prosecutions. He said he was very shocked by these developments. Today was his sixth time in court on this issue. However, the word "appeal" may be inappropriate in this case, as the process used by "the Authorities" in this case is not at all clear, and may not be fully in accordance with the law.

Inspector Kennedy admitted that he was a bit confused with developments as he had not been in Court on 16 November when Judge Durcan struck out the charges against Colm Roddy, but he stated  that he had appealed Judge Durcan's striking out decision to the DDP and that the DPP had directed that the charges be re-entered. On 16 November last Dave and Colm were surprisingly arrested and presented with new charges, which increased the amount of the alleged criminal damage they were alleged to have done to €3,500. At the November hearing Colm complained about the manner in which he had been arrested that morning by Garda Colm Moriarty, when he had arrived in Ennis today of his own accord from Dublin as he had done for each of the previous days hearings. Judge Durcan focused on this issue, and made it clear to the prosecuting Garda Inspector, that he considered this procedure most inappropriate in this case. It was also clarified at this point that the previous charges had been withdrawn by the prosecution so that the new charges could be introduced. Judge Durcan then struck out the new charges against Colm Roddy. At today's hearing it was pointed out that the changes in the charges simply amounted to changing the amount of damages from €300 to €3,500. Colm Roddy was representing himself and was being assisted by Sean Ryan, as his McKenzie Friend. Judge asked him several times if he wished to represented by a solicitor, and advised him several times that she recommended he be represented by a solicitor. Colm Roddy kept insisting that he wished to represent himself and said afterwards that he felt almost intimidated by the Judge's attitude on this. There was some discussion between the Judge and Inspector Kennedy about combining this case with the related case against Dave Donnelan. Colm Roddy objected to this suggestion as this stage of the case, and it was suggested that the case should be postponed to be heard by Judge Durcan who had dealt with these cases so far. For most of the ten or so minutes that Colm's appearance took the courtroom was subjected to a bout of confusion, from both Inspector Kennedy and the judge, who seemed to have a poor understanding as to what happened on the last occasion. Colm provided the necessary clarity after the judge finally gave him an opportunity to speak and stopped asking him if he required professional legal representation. Colm gave a full account of what had happened on each of the previous dates. He did so without pause, without nonsense and with the authority of someone who'd actually been there, unlike either the inspector or the judge who were just waffling. The inspector tried a different tactic at this point and the judge seemed like she was happy to oblige the prosecution, until an irate Colm brought the whole sordid show to a halt. The inspector wanted to proceed as if the last mention date hadn't happened and made an application to join Colm's case to Dave's and set the hearing date. Colm who'd earlier told the seemingly deaf judge, that Judge Durcan had struck the charges against him out, because the treatment meted out to Colm amounted to unfairness and that Kennedy, the DPP and the present judge lacked the jurisdiction to overturn that ruling and he'd asked that the case be adjourned to a date when Judge Durcan could deal with whether his ruling had merit or clout or not. Colm was again ignored. So when the inspector attempted to set the trial date, Colm objected and refused to enter a plea and forced another mention date where Judge Durcan can decide on whether his rulings have any merit or not. This was eventually agreed, and the case was postponed until 15th March 2017.

It is at best unclear whether Inspector Kennedy as prosecutor has the authority to appeal such a Judge's decision, or indeed whether the DPP has the authority to overrule and reverse such a Judge's decision.

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