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Judge invites defence lawyers to Judicially Review him over Covid breach rulings


District Judge Michael Ranaghan expressed concern about Covid-19 regulations

District Judge Michael Ranaghan expressed concern about Covid-19 regulations

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District Judge Michael Ranaghan expressed concern about Covid-19 regulations

A judge has invited defence lawyers in the latest Covid-19 regulation breaches to Judicially Review him, after rejecting an insistence that bail conditions cannot be imposed as the matters are fine-only offences.

Just days after stating a significant error was made when drafting legislation, District Judge Michael Ranaghan repeated his concerns when presented with two Strabane women charged with the same offences.

Sinead Corrigan (47) of Dillon Court – now on her third Covid charge – and Tammi-Lee Diver (24) of Casement Place are accused of breaching regulations in the early hours of January 21.

Corrigan was the first person to be charged under the legislation, which she repeated just over a week later, ending up with fines totalling £1000.

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A police officer told Dungannon Magistrates Court he could connect both accused to the charges.

He explained police were alerted to persons gathered in a property and after repeatedly trying to have the door answered, forced entry and discovered four people inside.

Corrigan was located hiding in a cupboard while Diver was in a bedroom.

Police opposed bail in both instances but accepted this was problematic given the legislation. He highlighted the risk posed to the public and police officers dealing with these situations.

Corrigan’s previous fines and convictions were pointed out and the officer added: “She has total disregard for regulations and no respect for anyone else.”

Judge Ranaghan remarked: “I view these breaches very seriously. It surprises me the legislation did not include a term of imprisonment. Proper thought hasn’t been given to bail in any fine-only case when custody is not an option, on the basis or hope somebody won’t pay a fine and serve time in lieu. This defendant’s attitude is disgusting.”

Corrigan’s defence argued she should be released without bail conditions as the legislation states: “The Public Health Regulations may not create an offence which is triable on indictment or punishable by imprisonment. It goes further than being fine-only by specifically excluding any possibility of imprisonment, because of the intrusive and extreme nature of the regulations.”

He cautioned against bail conditions which: “If breached, may lead to imprisonment by default”, and questioned police powers to enter properties to enforce regulations.

Rejecting the contention bail terms could not be attached, Judge Ranaghan said: “I disagree with her attitude entirely and I invite the defence to Judicially Review me. Given the current situation, that may bring about some change or thought into the whole process, which is abundantly lacking.”

In respect of Diver, it was agreed she previously breached regulations but of a lesser nature than her co-accused.

Her lawyer asked for her to be treated in the same manner as Corrigan and released on bail.

Judge Ranaghan responded: “You can join the Judicial Review as well.”

He set bail at £500 and ordered the pair not to be intoxicated in public, abide by a 10pm to 8am curfew and notify police of those within their contact bubble.

The judge stopped short of ordering electronic tagging as he felt: “That may be pushing it.”

Having invited a Judicial Review, Judge Ranaghan concluded: “I believe somebody in a higher judicial bracket needs to take a proper look at this.”

Both matters are due for mention at Strabane Magistrates Court next month.

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