McShane sentencing adjourned

Cllr Padraig McShane is arrested by PSNI during the Twelfth demonstration in Ballycastle after an altercation with Dervock Band.
Cllr Padraig McShane is arrested by PSNI during the Twelfth demonstration in Ballycastle after an altercation with Dervock Band.

A Co. Antrim councillor convicted of organising and taking part in an unnotified protest at a Twelfth of July parade in Ballycastle has had sentencing adjourned until late August and was warned by a judge to avoid similar offending during this year’s marching season.

Padraig McShane, an Independent member of Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council, appeared in the dock at Ballymena Magistrates Court on Wednesday after having been previously found guilty of assault on police and disorderly behaviour relating to an Orange Order march in Ballycastle on July 12, 2016.

The 45-year-old from Ballycastle, who left Sinn Fein to become an Independent, had denied the charges and had previously contested the case but was found guilty by District Judge Peter King.

Sentencing had been adjourned until Wednesday June 14 and a pre-sentence report was asked for.

However, defence barrister Mark Bassett claimed Probation “never contacted” his client.

McShane told District Judge Peter King he had received “nothing” from Probation.

The judge said that was “hugely regrettable” as he said the councillor remained the subject of bail conditions until the matter is dealt with.

The judge said he was surprised the matter wasn’t addressed earlier by the defendant and his defence team when it became apparent no pre-sentence report would be presented to the court.

Judge King said one of the sentencing options he had been considering was a period of deferral to the end of the summer and he was aware the offences had occurred during the July 12 period “to allow us to get through the upcoming marching season”.

Mr Bassett said part of the councillor’s bail conditions are that he is not allowed in the vicinity of loyalist parades.

The judge said it had been his desire to “draw a line” under the matter in court on Wednesday by either concluding the matter then or deferring sentence.

He said the situation regarding the pre-sentence report was “frankly not good enough given the nature of the case and the time of year.”

The judge said he was “deeply, deeply, unhappy” and said he would be making enquiries with the Probation Service. There were no representatives from Probation Service present during Wednesday’s hearing.

The judge apologised to the councillor for having to adjourn sentencing until the end of August but told him: “You would be very well advised to avoid the offending that took you here over the upcoming period”.

Supporting McShane at the courthouse was Derry Independent councillor Gary Donnelly.

The court previously heard that during a July 12 parade in Ballycastle last year there was an incident when Dervock Young Defenders band were in close proximity to Councillor McShane.

Judge King told the same court in May the police prevented much greater disorder occurring and he said he suspected if individuals had acted with a degree of restraint, the day would have passed off peacefully.

The judge said he had listened to three days of evidence in the case and said there were incidents in the Altananam Park area and also at the Diamond in Ballycastle.

Around 12.50pm on July 12, during the first leg of the parade, the judge said McShane directed a group of up to 15 males who formed up at Altananam Park which was an unnotified protest when they held placards including some which said ‘Treat our community with respect’.

The judge said gestures were made towards band and a police officer was racially abused by an individual.

Judge King said McShane shouted towards a band and when asked to move back he swore at police. He was agitated and was warned about his behaviour.

The judge said the group was “directed” by McShane and were clearly acting in concert with the councillor who was “operating a leadership role”.

Later, as the parade was returning through Ballycastle around 5.15pm the judge said that, regrettably, the parade paused for an unknown reason and a “critical mass” of members of the Dervock Young Defenders band had been drinking alcohol.

He said drummers were wearing Union Flag face masks and a confrontation occurred between McShane and the band.

The judge said there had been a “history” and that the councillor had claimed he was spat at and there was also a claim a “kiss” was blown in McShane’s direction and the councillor reacted.

The judge said McShane was shouting and swearing at the band and that when giving evidence the councillor had accepted he was “giving as good as he got”.

Judge King said as police tried to calm the situation McShane “unjustifiably” transferred his aggression to the PSNI and he shoved a constable in the chest and then ended up on the ground with two sets of handcuffs needed to restrain him and he kicked out.

‘The Twelfth’ is held in Ballycastle, which has a Catholic majority, every five years.

After July 12 last year, video footage showed blood coming from an apparent head wound as McShane was led away in handcuffs by police.