Judgment reserved in water charge protest case

The High Court has reserved judgment in the case of seven water charge protesters facing jail or a fine if found to be in contempt of court regarding the obstruction of water meter installation.

The court spent much of yesterday listening to affidavits and viewing footage, which a meter installation company says shows the six men and one woman breaching a court order.

The court was told the seven Dubliners had previously been ordered not to go within 20 metres of contractors installing water meters and not to interfere with the entrance and exit of the company’s vehicles.

They are Damien O’Neill, of Greenwood Park in Coolock; Paul Moore, of Mount Olive Grove in Kilbarrack; Bernie Hughes, of McKelvey Avenue, Finglas; Mark Egan, of Tonlegee Drive, Raheny; Richard Larkin, of Mount Olive Road, Kilbarrack; Michael Batty, of Edenmore Avenue, Raheny; and Derek Byrne, of Streamville Road, Donaghmede.

All were in court apart from Mr Batty who, the court was told, needed to be in a dry and sunny climate due to chronic asthma.

The High Court had, on November 5, granted an order to GMC Sierra Ltd, establishing the 20-metre exclusion zone around locations where its workers were installing meters in Dublin City.

GMC, which had a contract to install meters, had already secured injunctions preventing a number of individuals or anyone who had notice of the order from assaulting, intimidating or interfering with workers installing the meters.

GMC has now moved contempt of court proceedings against seven protesters on grounds they allegedly breached the November 5 order in the Phibsborough and Stoneybatter areas in December.

Jim O’Callaghan SC, for GMC Sierra, read into the record affidavits of a number of people engaged by the company to carry out surveillance on protests.

Three of these evidence-gathering operatives also provided video footage, which was played in court. They alleged they had seen all of the seven people within the 20-metre exclusion zones and had seen a number of them remove safety barriers and interfere with workers.

The three operatives, and two agents from another company, were yesterday called to the witness box to be cross examined by Patrick McGrath SC, who was representing all seven people.

Mr O’Callaghan suggested to Mr Justice Paul Gilligan that the plaintiff had proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

He noted the court had previously imposed 28-day sentences on Mr Moore and Mr O’Neill for a similar breach, but had suspended the sentences for six months.

Mr McGrath said it should trouble the court that none of the witnesses knew any of his clients before the case and could identify them in the footage only by someone else pointing out who they were.

Mr Justice Gilligan will give his decision on Thursday morning.

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