Court ruling explained:
In this ruling the PPS sought to rely upon the word ‘prove’ contained in section 6 sub section 8 of the Public Processions Act 1998.
This is the first time the PPS have sought to reverse the burden in a parade related case and indeed the only relevant case law in terms of a reversal of the legal burden on the defendant was in cases involving the misuse of drugs act and the terrorism act.
The courts overriding duty from the inception of the ECHR is to ensure the right to a fair trial is upheld (Article 6) therefore if a piece of legislation being interpreted a particular way would infringe Article 6, the court has a statutory duty to read down that legislation to make it compatible with ECHR.
In my case I am charged under the public processions act 1998. A number of persons have already been charged for allegedly taking part in the same procession/s as I am alleged to have been part of, and yet they have been acquitted using the statutory defence contained within section 6 sub section 8 of the public processions act 1998. In these cases the evidential burden was read down to make it compatible with Article 6.
In my case however, for the first time ever, the court are refusing to read down the burden to make it compatible with ECHR and therefore that leaves us in a situation whereby you will have a number of people charged with the same offence, at the same place, on the same date, in exactly the same circumstances and yet one person will be judged by one evidential burden whilst all the rest were afforded the right to avail of the statutory defence in section 6 subsection 8, with the protections enshrined by article 6 granted to them.
This clearly makes a difference between one citizen and another and I must ask, if everyone is equal under the law and equally subject to the law, then why am I being judged to a different standard than anyone else charged under this legislation?
Why was charges against my co-accused, William Frazer, dropped when the so called ‘evidence’ against him was identical to mine? How can one case meet the evidential threshold and the other not?
It is also important to note than no one else has ever been sent to prison for a single day for an offence under the public processions act 1998, yet I have already served what amounts to a two month sentence on remand for this and am yet to face a trial. Once again why am I treated differently than all others?
The Judges ruling also referred to wider political and societal concerns relating to parading and this clearly shows that the judge has went beyond her remit and rather than focusing on the matter at hand she has stretched herself to creating a wider political context for my case. That is interference in the judicial process and is wholly inappropriate.
This ruling has wider implications for parading in Northern Ireland and will adversely affect all bandsmen and women.
It will set a legal precedent in terms of the burden on the defendant and make it almost impossible to defend yourself against any allegation of a breach of a parades determination or breach of the public processions act legislation in general.