A Derry woman and a woman from Culdaff appeared in court in Belfast this week on contempt of court proceedings relating to an outburst at the trial of Fr. Eugene Boland, in Derry last month.
Sarah Kerrigan, from Patrick Street, Derry and Michelle Ruddy, from Larraghirrel, Culdaff, who were described as “close friends” of Fr Boland found themselves accused of contempt after they cheered and clapped when Fr Boland from Killyclogher Road, Omagh, was cleared of indecently assaulting a 14 year-old girl 20 years ago.
Describing the women as “close associates and friends” of Fr. Boland, Brian McCartney QC, defending, told Belfast Crown Court the women had been caught up in the heat of the moment and ‘by the intensity of feelings’ during the cleric’s trial.
He said the not guilty verdict had ‘led to expressions of approval which were overheard’ and added that the women were unaware of an earlier warning given by presiding Judge Stephen Fowler following an outburst at an earlier stage of Fr Boland’s trial.
Mr. McCartney said both women were widely knownn in their parishes for their voluntary work. He said Mrs. Kerrigan had worked for more than 30 years in youth clubs and was a member of a board of governors. He added: “Both women wish through me to offer their apologies to the court. They intended no disrespect,”
Summing up Judge Fowler said there were two sides to a criminal trial which required that the interests of ‘both parties are protected throughout the trial.’ He went on: “The court supports open justice so people can come in and see what is happening in the courts.”
The Judge allowed both women to go free saying they had ‘purged their contempt’ through their apologies to the court.