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Belfast republican ‘Dee’ Fennell acquitted over illegal procession after video evidence could not be played due to password issue

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Dee Fennell in Milltown Cemetery in April 2019.

Dee Fennell in Milltown Cemetery in April 2019.

Dee Fennell in Milltown Cemetery in April 2019.

Belfast man Damien ‘Dee’ Fennell has been acquitted of overseeing an illegal Easter procession.

A judge dismissed charges against the 39-year-old after prosecutors were unable to play footage of the incident nearly three years ago.

Mr Fennell, of Duneden Park in the Ardoyne area, faced counts of organising and taking part in an unnotified procession on April 22,2019.

On that date members and supporters of hard-line republican grouping Saoradh held their annual Easter commemoration at Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast.

A second defendant, 30-year-old Patrick McGrath, from Saunderson Court in the city, was also cleared on a single charge of participating in an unnotified procession.

Mr Fennell, who has reportedly since left Saoradh, and Mr McGrath denied the allegations and were set to contest a case centred on a dispute about whether any parade took place.

CCTV footage was due to be played at Belfast Magistrates Court in a bid to back statements from police witnesses.

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But amid technical problems, defence barrister Conor O’Kane argued that the recordings provide no support to the Crown case.

“On any view of it there is not any type of procession,” he submitted.

“Nobody is moving forward in an orderly fashion, they are simply standing around in the entrance to Milltown Cemetery.”

Referring to the footage, a prosecution lawyer countered: “It is alleged that the defendant Fennell is seen issuing instructions to members of the crowd.

“That is (the reason) for the decision to prosecute him for organising the unnotified procession, and he was also involved.”

She further contended: “Mr McGrath, the other defendant, is in band uniform and holding a flagpole in the procession.”

The court heard, however, that the footage could not be played due to an issue with passwords.

“I have tried five different discs, and unfortunately none of them are working, the prosecutor added.

Rejecting her application for an adjournment, Deputy District Judge Noel Dunlop pointed out that he previously turned down a similar request from the defence.

“If the only evidence is based on the statements, then, having read the statements in detail and noted the observations, all I can see is they were standing there and there is no indication to say they were taking part in a procession,” he said.

“Nor is there any indication to show that Mr Fennell was actually responsible for organising the parade.”

Judge Dunlop confirmed: “Accordingly, unless the prosecution has anything else to produce, the charges will be dismissed.”


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