Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

Irish journalist jailed for not paying parking fine

A journalist in the Republic of Ireland has spent more than two hours in a jail cell over a €40 parking fine.

Writer John Waters was taken into custody after he handed himself in at Dun Laoghaire garda station at midday yesterday.

Arriving to the applause of supporters, he was whisked away minutes later in a patrol car, flanked by two gardai.

Mr Waters was arrested on foot of a warrant that was issued over his repeated refusal to pay a parking fine that dates back more than two years ago.

He said he would not pay the money "on a point of principle".

Mr Waters was placed in a holding cell in Wheatfield Prison and was released after a little more than two hours.

A prison source said it was "normal" for a person jailed for one day to be released after such a short period.

Mr Waters described the experience as "frightening" but said he bonded in the cell with two other inmates.

"It's a small cell, a very dirty cell. It's about six foot by 12 foot. There's a bench at the back of it. It's like a bus shelter with bars on the front of it," he said.

"To be in that room, and know that your ability to move outside of a short space is in the hands of another human being, that's frightening," he added.

The outspoken journalist claims that he received a parking fine in Dun Laoghaire because he was one minute outside the 15-minute 'grace' allowed after a ticket runs out.

The initial penalty was €40 but Mr Waters refused to pay it when summonsed to appear before Dun Laoghaire District Court at the time.

Warrants were subsequently issued and he surrendered himself by arrangement.

He arrived outside the garda station just after 12pm in a black suit and carrying a white and red holdall bag. Accompanied by two friends, Derek and Jamie Dean, he was first greeted by poet Liam O Muirthile who handed him a book as a gift.

Mr Waters thanked him, saying "Go raibh maith agat" before approaching members of the Dun Laoghaire Community Association, who had mounted a demonstration in support.

Laughing, he told the group of up to 20 supporters he realised gardai would "probably go the whole hog".

Mr Waters said that he was dealt with by five prison staff when incarcerated in Wheatfield Prison yesterday afternoon.

"They searched me. They put me through the scanner. They took me upstairs.

"There was a guy who booked me in. Another guy booked me in further. And then I was put into a holding cell."

Speaking to George Hook on 'Newstalk' following his release, Mr Waters hit out at the way in which parking fines are issued.

"They have the audacity to fine people for living their lives in an urban space which is their right."

Mr Waters has previously described Dun Laoghaire's parking policy as akin to "tyranny".

Supporters of Mr Waters complained about Dun Laoghaire's parking regime. "This town has been crucified," said supporter Anne Joyce.

"Can you imagine any town in Ireland where they won't allow people who live in the town to move about freely? They have chased the shops out, Marks & Spencer was the last to close and 25 people lost their jobs.

"John was over (by) one lousy minute and they have spent two years pursuing it," she added.

Source Irish Independent

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