Donnelly charges dismissed by District Judge

The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.
The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.

Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly was acquitted at Londonderry Magistrates Court of charges of disorderly behaviour and obstructing police at Ballymagowan Gardens in Creggan on October 16, 2015.

Donnelly, of Iniscarn Road, denied the charges. Another man, Christopher Boast (26), of Gelvin Grange, also appeared in relation to the same incident.

District Judge Barney McElholm said the evidence against Boast was gathered against a backdrop of serious public disorder, with objects thrown and the crowd shouting and chanting.

Mr McElholm said the PSNI contended that Boast struck a police officer twice on the arm and was verbally abusive and attempted to goad a police offer into a physical confrontation.

Boast was found guilty of assault on the police and disorderly behaviour. The court also heard that Boast had a previous record and had served a lengthy sentence in 2011 and had committed an offence whilst in jail in 2012 for which he had received a suspended sentence. It was noted he had not re-offended for five years and Boast was fined a total of £500 and ordered to pay a £25 offenders levy.

Turning to Donnelly, District Judge McElholm said police reports showed he was at the scene and that the PSNI had asked him to help them control the crowd and assist in getting them back on the footpath, but Donnelly told them to “f--k off”.

“This was against the backdrop of a serious public order situation and police were trying to move people off the road to allow traffic to flow freely,” District Judge McElholm said.

Noting Donnelly was approached by police in the hope that he would use his “good offices to control the situation” he said 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,” said the District Judge.

Referring to Donnelly telling the police to “f--k off”, Mr McElholm said in such circumstances he 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 the councillor.