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New move on illegal parade prosecution

By Paul Higgins

Four men and a woman charged with taking part in an illegal dissident republican parade and wearing paramilitary-style clothing had the charges withdrawn yesterday.

A prosecution lawyer told Craigavon Magistrates Court that while charges against the five, who all refused to identify themselves or to stand up in the dock when asked, were being withdrawn, the case was to proceed by way of report.

The lawyer revealed that a similar case had been referred to the Court of Appeal, but that a decision in that case was expected in the next few weeks.

The five defendants are Martin Stephen Conlon (48), Tarry Drive in Lurgan; Christopher Martin Hamill (27), Lurgan Tarry, Lurgan; Audrey Sharpe (49), Drumbeg, Tullygally; Declan McCrory (47), Aghaboy Road, Omagh and Sean Pearson (24), Culmore Park, also in Omagh.

They are all jointly charged with two counts of taking part in an unnotified public procession on April 15 and 16 this year.

The accused also faced two further charges of wearing items of clothing, namely paramilitary-style uniforms, "in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion that he was a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation, contrary to Section 13(1) of the Terrorism Act 2000" on the same dates.

None of the circumstances giving rise to the allegations were opened in court, but it is understood they relate to unnotified parades in Lurgan and Belfast on April 15 and 16 this year.

At the time, police promised to carry out a "robust" investigation after a small number of people wearing military garb and sunglasses walked through the Kilwilkie estate in Lurgan.

Commenting in court yesterday, District Judge Bernie Kelly told the Public Prosecution Service that it had made "an excellent decision".

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