An Independent councillor on Derry City and Strabane District Council has been acquitted of charges of disorderly behaviour and obstucting police when he appeared at Derry Magistrate’s Court.
Gary Donnelly, whose adress was given as Iniscarn Road, denied the charges. The offences were alleged to have taken place at Ballymagowan Gardens in Creggan on October 16, 2015.
Another man, 26-year-old Christopher Boast, from Gelvin Grange, appeared alongside Mr Donnelly in relation to the same incident.
Defence counsel for both men offered no submissions apart from confirming that they charges would be contested.
District Judge Barney McElholm said that the evidence aginst Boast was gathered against a backdrop of serious public disorder. He said objects were being thrown at police and that the assembled crowd was shouting and chanting.
Mr McElholm said that the PSNI contended that Boast struck a police officer twice on the arm and was verbally abusive in that he allegedly said: “Chasing the wains you peadophile, get out of our estate, you are not welcome.”
Police also said that Boast attempted to goad a police offer into a physical confrontation by saying ‘you and me, one on one.’
Boast was found guilty of assault on the police and diorderly behaviour. The court also heard that Boast had a previous record and had served a “lengthy” setence in 2011 and had committed an offence whilst in jail in 2012 for which he had received a suspended sentence.
However, it was added that he had not reoffended for a period of five years.
Boast was fined a total of £500 and was ordered to pay a £25 offenders levy.
Turning his attentions to Donnelly, District Judge McElholm said that police reports stated that he was at the scene and that the PSNI had asked him to help them control the crowd and assist them in getting them back on the footpath. However, Mr Donnelly responded by telling them to ‘f--k off.’
A report from another police officer said that he had asked Mr. Donnelly to move but he replied: ‘f--k off I am not moving’.
Judge McElhom told the court: “This was against the backdrop of a serious public order situation and police were trying to move people off ther road to allow traffic to flow freely.
“A large crowd had gathered which did not appear to be under anyone’s control . People were doing whatever they liked and were shouting, jeering and chanting.”
The District Judge added that Colr. Donnelly was approached by police in the hope that he would use his “good offices to control the situation’ but the reply they received was to ‘f--k off’.
“Frankly, the idea that they were going to get the crowd to desist by asking for Mr Donnelly’s help was optimistic.
“We know that he is an elected representative, but he was elected on a certain mandate and has made it clear what his stand was and he is not one for assisting police,” noted Judge McElholm.
In relation to Donnelly telling the police to ‘f--k off,’ Mr McElholm said: “In such circumstances I would not have expected anything else.
“In the context of a large crowd shouting and jeering anyone trying to communicate would have to shout and reply in the vernacular at a level where one could make themselves heard.”
In relation to the obstruction charge the judge noted that the report came from another officer, not from the officer concerned in the alleged incident.
On the basis of the available police evidence, Judge McElhom, therefore, dismissed both charges against Colr. Donnelly.