Un-named councillor may step forward in disorderly conviction appeal

Mr McShane at a previous hearing.
Mr McShane at a previous hearing.

An un-named councillor may step forward as a witness as part of an Independent Republican councillor’s appeal against his conviction for threatening to shove a bottle down the throat of the husband of a Traditional Unionist Voice representative as stormy scenes erupted at a council meeting.

Padraig McShane (43), of White Hall Avenue, Ballycastle, is appealing his disorderly behaviour conviction following an incident which happened on the night a loyalist flag protest was held outside the then offices of the former Moyle District Council in the town in 2012.

McShane - who was subsequently re-elected to Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council - had denied the charge but was convicted after a contest in May and was fined £500.

A key part of the prosecution case was the testimony given by former SDLP councillor Catherine McCambridge who witnessed the flare-up.

At the County Court sitting in Antrim town on Thursday, McShane’s case was listed as an appeal but it was adjourned to September when he did not attend.

Defence barrister Philip McNally said his client and family had, in recent days, been presented with a surprise gift of a free holiday in Tipperary by the councillor’s father-in-law and as his client was currently out of the jurisdiction he asked for the case to be adjourned.

The barrister said his client potentially will call two witnesses who have now come forward and he said one allegedly is a councillor who was in the council chamber on the night of the incident although he said he did not have the councillor’s name.

And he said the other potential witness is a person who allegedly witnessed an assault McShane claims to have been the victim of by a person with a connection to a prosecution witness.

A prosecution lawyer said the case has been long-standing and he was “somewhat sceptical that a holiday to the south of Ireland materialises” a few days before the appeal was due to be heard.

Judge Donna McColgan, QC, said she would allow the adjournment application but that it must proceed on a date in September.

In May Councillor McShane was convicted and fined £500 for being disorderly in Ballycastle’s Moyle District Council chamber on the night a contentious loyalist flags protest was being held outside.

The former Sinn Fein councillor had lifted a glass bottle and threatened to “shove” it down the throat of the husband of a Traditional Unionist Voice councillor on December 10, 2012, Coleraine Magistrates Court previously heard.

Finding McShane guilty, Coleraine District Judge Liam McNally said he found former SDLP councillor Catherine McCambridge, who gave evidence in the case, to be an “excellent” witness.

Earlier in the witness box McShane had alleged Mrs McCambridge was motivated by wanting to see his character denigrated so he would not get re-elected because she held a “grudge” against him as he had defeated her husband in a previous election.

Mrs McCambridge said it was her duty to “tell the truth” of what McShane did at the council meeting.

Previously the court was told Stephen McKillop was in the public gallery of the Moyle Council chamber, where his wife Sharon McKillop was a TUV councillor. She is now a councillor on the new larger council in the area.

Mr McKillop said he felt in fear when McShane lifted a bottle and threatened to throw it at him during a recess as councillors sipped tea and coffee.

Mr McKillop claimed that on his way into the Council meeting he was met by McShane who “walked straight over to me and put his head right into my head and said: ‘Keep you running you wee b-----d ye, you and that wee bitch of a wife of yours’.”

Mr McKillop said he was “terrified” but replied: “I will not be running from you”.

Mr McKillop said when he was later in the public gallery at the Council meeting, McShane approached him and said: “We know all about you, you better watch yourself”.

Mr McKillop said the councillor then took his seat a short distance away and lifted a bottle of water and whilst drawing his hand back as if to throw it said: “I’ll split you with that bottle you wee b-----d”.

Mr McKillop added: “I put my hands up. I thought he was going to throw it.”

The bottle was not thrown, he added.

McShane’s defence barrister claimed Mr McKillop had threatened the councillor, saying: “You’ll be done” and “We know where you live now and you’ll be done”.

Catherine McCambridge, previously told the court she saw McShane getting to his feet and lifting a glass bottle whilst facing the public gallery. She said he raised his arm with the bottle and he said to someone behind her in the public gallery: “If you don’t shut your f--king mouth I will shove this (bottle) down your throat or down your neck”.

At the earlier court a defence barrister tried to get the case stopped on the grounds that a disorderly behaviour charge relates to a public area and that the Council chamber was not a public space but later accepted that the public gallery section of the council chamber at least was a public space.

Councillor McShane told the previous court he had addressed a 100-strong loyalist flag-protest outside the building to say the flag they were protesting about was 50 miles away and Moyle Council had a no flags policy.

McShane went on to say allegations made by Mr McKillop that he put his forehead into his and told him to “keep running” were “totally unfounded, totally untrue”.

Instead, he claimed Mr McKillop went into his path and nudged him with his elbow.

McShane claimed that inside the council chamber Mr McKillop told him he knew where he lived and he “would be done” and he said he replied by saying if he didn’t “shut your mouth” he would get the Chairperson to have him removed. McShane said the allegation that he lifted a bottle and made a threat was “an unfortunate fabrication”.

The councillor said Mrs McCambridge had a “grudge” against him because he had defeated her husband in a by-election and he alleged that in 2010 Mrs McCambridge’s husband was removed from a pub in connection with an assault on him.

McShane accepted he and Mr McKillop are “diametrically opposed politically” and said Mr McKillop had attended the flag protest and was “extremely het up. I asked him to calm down”.

The prosecutor said Mr McKillop denied being at the protest.

McShane repeatedly denied lifting a bottle or making any threats.

He went on to say he did not believe Mrs McCambridge was an “independent” witness and said she had “personal grudges” against him because of previous election results and claimed the court was deciding on a “manufactured incident made on the night” between “strange bedfellows” the SDLP and the TUV to “damage my good reputation” and make him unelectable.

Convicting McShane, District Judge Mr McNally said he had heard two completely different versions from the councillor and Mr McKillop and said that “no doubt feelings were running high” on the night of the flag protest but said that Mrs McCambridge was an “excellent witness” and he believed her account that “unfortunately Mr McShane lost his temper and raised a bottle”.

Outside the earlier court, Cllr McShane said he would appeal and added: “It is very unfortunate that somebody who had given evidence saying she had lost her memory is accepted as a credible witness, given her background and the history between the two of us, I find that unbelievable.”

Neither Mr McKillop nor his wife TUV councillor Sharon McKillop, wished to make any comment afterwards and Mrs McCambridge said: “I was there to tell the truth. It was my public duty to tell the truth”.