Belfast Telegraph

Appeal Court orders fresh hearing of case dropped by judge in 'public place' ruling

A judge wrongly dismissed a charge of disorderly behaviour because he believed the supermarket car park where it was alleged to have taken place was not a public place, the Court of Appeal has ruled
A judge wrongly dismissed a charge of disorderly behaviour because he believed the supermarket car park where it was alleged to have taken place was not a public place, the Court of Appeal has ruled

By Alan Erwin

A judge wrongly dismissed a charge of disorderly behaviour because he believed the supermarket car park where it was alleged to have taken place was not a public place, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Justices held the decision was unsustainable in law and ordered a fresh hearing in the case against Sean Michael Pearson.

Mr Pearson, whose age and address were not disclosed, faced prosecution over an incident at an Asda car park in Omagh in September last year.

He is alleged to have got out of a Volkswagen Golf and told a police officer attempting to detain him to "f*** off".

According to the case against him, he responded aggressively when warned about his language, asking: "What are you going to do about it?"

A number of people were said to have been in the area at the time, including children.

Mr Pearson was arrested after he allegedly walked back towards his vehicle and remarked "fat useless c***".

Signs erected at the entrance and throughout the car park state the area is private property for use by customers only.

During Magistrates' Court proceedings, the defendant argued there was no case to answer because the location was not a public place.

The district judge granted the application to dismiss the charge on that basis, finding it was not a street or highway.

A case was then stated for the Court of Appeal to examine that decision.

Lord Justice McCloskey held that the district judge failed to engage with the statutory definition of 'public place' in its entirety. He said: "We conclude that the no case to answer direction/decision in the present case is unsustainable in law."

He confirmed the decision to dismiss the charge of disorderly behaviour was wrong in law. "The appeal is, therefore, allowed," the judge concluded.

"Remittal of the case to a differently constituted District Judge's Court for a fresh hearing is the appropriate disposal."

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