Belfast Telegraph

Bandsmen 'knowingly breached ban on playing flute music outside Catholic church in Belfast' - court hears

By Alan Erwin

Six members of the Royal Black Institution knowingly breached a ban on flute bands playing music outside a Catholic church in Belfast, a court heard today.

Prosecutors claimed they were guilty of failing to comply with conditions imposed on the march both as organisers and participants.

But a defence lawyer argued that none of them could be held responsible for any flouting of the Parades Commission determination.

The organisational role lay with the Belfast Grand Black Chapter as a corporate authority rather than individuals, he submitted.

Charges were brought over the 'Black Saturday' parade in August 2012.

Following previous controversy on the route a prohibition had been placed on band tunes being played outside St Patrick's Chuch on Donegall Street.

Several flute band members have already been prosecuted for knowingly breaching the restriction.

Now some of the alleged organisers of the march are facing the same charge.

Appearing at Belfast Magistrates' Court were Belfast men Thomas Foster, 60, of Woodvale Avenue; William Mawhinney, 67, of Ainsworth Avenue; Alan McIntosh, 60, of Kilcoole Park; Raymond Spiers, 56, from Castlereagh Road.

Alongside them were Thomas Hefferon, 55, of Derrycoole Way; and Brian Kerr, 42, of Fairview Gardens, both in Newtownabbey.

Prosecution lawyer John O'Neill argued that all of them were guilty on the basis of a joint enterprise with the flute bands who played tunes.

"We haven't heard any evidence that any of them tried to extricate themselves from the procession," he said.

"Nobody who took part in that parade didn't know music was being played on that stretch of road."

But defence solicitor Keith Gamble insisted his clients did the best they could in the circumstances.

He told District Judge George Conner there was nothing to show the defendants knew they were doing wrong.

He added: "The evidence is simply not there to say that they are organisers."

One of the defendants, Mr Foster, told the court the parade had already started by the time he received the determination.

The case continues.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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