Northern Ireland mum and sons accused of keeping illegal waste have charges dropped
A Co Tyrone mother and her two sons accused of keeping more than 7,000 tonnes of illegal waste have had the charges against them dismissed.
At Dungannon Magistrates' Court, sitting in Lisburn, District Judge John Ranaghan said "no reasonable jury properly directed could properly convict" Ann McGee and her two sons, Peter James McGee and Michael McGee.
Mrs McGee (58), Michael McGee (29), both from the Tandragee Road in Pomeroy, and 31-year-old Peter James McGee, from Killyliss Manor in Eglish, had always denied the 12 charges against them.
They had been accused of unlawfully depositing, keeping and treating controlled waste "in a manner likely to cause pollution or harm human health" on dates between September 1, 2010 and July 30, 2015.
Judge Ranaghan said the offences centred around 7,200 tonnes of waste which officials had uncovered on land which belongs to the McGees. Numerous inspections found gas "bubbling" through puddles, with waste "sticking out" of the ground surrounding a partially built house.
It was the Crown case that Mrs McGee and her sons could be linked to the waste because they owned the land, commercial vehicles registered to the family were spotted at the dumping site and an intercom to gain access to the land was linked to Mrs McGee's mobile phone.
The judge revealed, however, that a lease for the 58 acres was "executed in favour" of 56-year-old John Joseph McGee, Mrs McGee's husband. He was last reported to be living in Dublin.
Mr McGee, also with an address on the Tandragee Road, faces the same 12 charges.
Judge Ranaghan said he heard evidence about a family fall-out when Mr McGee allegedly threatened to shoot his family while ordering them to stay away from the land where the waste was found, further revealing that he heard a "distressing 999 call" about that incident.
There was also documentary evidence, said the judge, that Mr McGee was the registered keeper and was insured to drive the various vehicles which inspectors spotted at the dump.
Mrs McGee and her sons were interviewed about the waste. Each denied knowing anything about it and inspectors noted how they appeared "shocked... and surprised" when told of what had been unearthed.
Judge Ranaghan said the offences required a defendant to have knowledge of the waste, but that examining the evidence as it stands: "I am not of the opinion that a reasonable jury could convict any of the three defendants."
Accordingly, he ordered charges be withdrawn against Mrs McGee and her sons.
However, they still stand against John Joseph Magee.