A water charges protester, convicted yesterday of causing criminal damage to 10 water meters at a housing estate in Carrigaline, Co Cork, was fined €2,000, plus €800 in repairs, and was bound to the peace for two years.
Brian Gould, aged 64, from 14 Barry’s Place, Gurranabraher, pleaded not guilty to the charges. He had discharged his free legal aid solicitor and refused several offers to have the case adjourned to secure a replacement.
After almost three hours of evidence and submissions, he was convicted on all 10 counts of causing criminal damage.
Judge Olann Kelleher said: “I am concerned about the nature of the criminal damage. I am concerned you feel you are not in breach of the law at all, because you are.”
Gould indicated he was going to appeal the decision. He did not give evidence but made legal submissions including an argument that if someone put something outside his house, surely he could do what he wanted to it.
Judge Kelleher said that was not the law, as it was not his property to do what he wanted with it.
Gould argued: “They don’t have the authority to put it in but the way I tried to present my case, it seems I am in a different zone.”
He claimed the meters were installed under the Water Services Act and he should not have been prosecuted under the Criminal Damage Act. His application to have the charges struck out was refused.
Garda Inspector John Deasy said the DPP was satisfied the charges were brought correctly.
Brendan O’Sullivan, employed by a subcontractor for Irish Water, said he was at Ashgrove in Carrigaline at lunchtime on August 22 last year when work was stopped after protesters became agitated.
He claimed to have seen Gould breaking five automated meter readers (AMRs) from the units and placing them in his pockets.
Paulius Zalimas, another employee of a subcontractor, testified that he followed Gould and saw him break off 10 AMRs.
In respect of one house, he said the accused broke it off, workers replaced it, and Gould went back and broke it off a second time.
The accused asked Mr Zalimas why he did not prevent him from allegedly breaking the meters.
He replied: “I am not allowed to stop you when you are breaking stuff. I am not allowed by the law. I need to give a call to my supervisor.
“He calls the guards and the guards can come.”
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