Charges dismissed over rocket launcher snowman in window
Two men charged in connection with a window display of a snowman carrying a RPG 7 rocket launcher and stating 'Wishing You An Explosive Christmas' have had their charges dismissed at Londonderry Magistrates' Court.
William McDonnell (31), of Harvey Street, and Joseph Patrick Barr (29), of Sackville Court, both in the city, were contesting charges of displaying an image that was likely to cause a breach of the peace and also of being in breach of the Indecent Advertisements Act of 1889.
A police officer told the court he recognised McDonnell, who he knew from dealing with him on a number of occasions.
He said that at around 6.20pm on October 24 he saw McDonnell painting the image on the window of offices belonging to the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Organisation.
He was asked by Paddy MacDermott, defence solicitor for McDonnell, had there been any complaints from people in the area and said there had not been.
The investigating officer said that while he was unaware of any complaints locally, there had been "political condemnation and momentum gathering about the image".
He said there had been messages on Facebook and that Barr, who was charged as he was the leaseholder of the premises, had "liked" the image.
In response to Mr MacDermott, the officer said that the image "implied a message of intimidation and threat".
Mr MacDermott quoted a posting on Facebook pointing out that statements from the group were ignored but "a tongue-in-cheek" painting garnered reaction.
Barr's counsel Mr Eoghain Devlin asked if the officer had checked which Joe Barr had liked the image and was told he hadn't.
Mr Devlin asked if the officer was aware of another Joe Barr and was told he was, and when pressed the officer said the other Barr was a supporter of dissident republican activity. The barrister asked if the intent had been to cause a breach of the peace, would it not have been better to place the image in the Fountain or the Waterside rather than in the Bogside?
Mr MacDermott applied for Judge Barney McElholm to dismiss the charges, saying there had been no complaints from those around the image and thus no intent to cause a breach of the peace and, as regards the second charge, "the image was distasteful and in poor taste but did not come anywhere near being indecent or obscene".
Echoing these submissions, Mr Devlin said: "Nothing happened except some politicians got annoyed."
The barrister said that it wasn't even clear what offence had been committed.
Judge McElholm said he "despised violence no matter where it comes from". He added that he "deplored" the image and "it is unfunny and has no place in a right-thinking society", but that due to the lack of legislation it did not fall into either of the two counts in front of him, so he dismissed the charges.