Most expensive magistrate's case ends with 21 convicted

 

NORTHERN Ireland's longest and most expensive magistrate's court trial ended in Derry yesterday when 21 people were convicted of offences arising from street disturbances during the visit to the city's Tower museum last May by the British Prime Minister, Mr John Major.

The 56 day trial is estimated to have cost about £1 million. The charges against the defendants were either of disorderly behaviour or assaulting police officers, and many of them were charged with both. At the start of the trial there was a total of 31 defendants.

The magistrate, Mr Ken Nixon, convicted 21 of the defendants - and acquitted five others. Charges against four other defendants had previously been dismissed, and a bench warrant was issued for one defendant who failed to turn up for the trial.

Mr Nixon imposed fines ranging from £50 to £100 and imposed a 12 month conditional discharge on most of those convicted.

One of thou acquitted, a former IRA Maze prison leader, Mr Raymond McCartney, who was charged with disorderly behaviour, had been released from prison in July 1994 after serving 17 years of a life sentence for murder.

Mr McCartney, who had been granted temporary release, said he now hoped to be released on licence and that he planned to take action against the RUC for malicious prosecution.

One of those convicted is a Sinn Fein councillor, Mary Nelis, who was given a conditional discharge of 12 months for disorderly behaviour. Nelis was to have accompanied more than 20 other councillors in the North on a visit to No 10 Downing Street last week, but it was called off by Mr Major following the Docklands bomb.

Mr Nixon, who fixed appeal bail at £50, said he would not be taking any action in relation to a police officer who had admitted under cross examination that he had lied several times in his direct evidence.

Responding to a defence application, Mr Nixon said: "I have indicated that the case is closed. The matter was eloquently dealt with by counsel at that time. It cannot be done any better than it was done at the time."

Later an RUC spokesman, when asked if the named constable would be subject to an internal disciplinary hearing, said: "The matter is under investigation and we cannot make any further comment."