A Bus Éireann passenger who wore a mask on his head “like a hat” and refused to wear it properly for “health reasons” was sentenced to two months in prison by a district court judge on Thursday.
After hearing the evidence at Castlebar court in a case against Andrew Heasman (41), Carrowmore, Knock, Co Mayo, Judge Fiona Lydon said she was satisfied that all of the ingredients required to secure a conviction had been satisfied by the State.
The judge sentenced the defendant to the prison term for an offence of failing to wear a face mask on public transport at Main Street, Ballyhaunis, on July 14th last.
She took a charge of a breach of public order on the same date into account.
The defendant was accompanied in court – as a McKenzie friend – by the columnist, author and civil rights activist John Waters.
The court was told by Garda Thomas Bowens that the defendant refused to wear a mask properly when asked to by the bus driver and that a number of passengers had gotten off the bus as a consequence.
Garda Bowens said he saw about 18 passengers outside the bus which was travelling from Dublin to Knock.
The garda witness said that when he entered the bus he outlined the legislation to the defendant, telling him he was committing an offence under the Health Act 1947.
“He was wearing a mask on the top of his head like a hat,” Garda Bowens testified. “I told him there was a requirement in place that the mask should cover the face, mouth and nose.”
Garda Bowens said the defendant recorded his interaction with him (garda) on his mobile phone and encouraged other passengers to film also. He accused the garda of harassment, stating “I want to be left alone”.
He added that when the defendant got off the bus he said to the driver: “There, I am off your f***ing bus”.
After being handcuffed the defendant began to shout loudly as he was being led to a patrol car: “They are arresting me for not wearing a mask.”
In evidence, the defendant said he told the gardaí he was exempt from wearing a mask for health reasons. He said the garda had asked him for medical evidence but he replied that under data protection he was not required to provide that information.
The defendant said his uncle was being laid to rest on the day and he was travelling from Dublin for the funeral. He described the charges against him as “trumped up”.
The judge said that in light of the public health emergency his behaviour had been “totally inappropriate”.
He has 24 previous convictions, mostly related to road traffic matters.