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Padraig McShane conviction quashed by High Court

Causeway Coast and Glens independent councillor Padraig McShane leaving the High Court yesterday with his solicitor Michael Brentnall. Picture by Mal McCann

An independent councillor in Co Antrim has had a disorderly behaviour conviction quashed.

Causeway Coast and Glens representative Padraig McShane was found guilty last year of threatening a fellow councillor's husband with a water bottle during a meeting in December 2012.

However, the conviction was overturned in the High Court yesterday following a challenge centring on a failure of the Public Prosecution Service to disclose to defence solicitors a caution previously given to Stephen McKillop.

Mr McShane's conviction had been upheld at an appeal hearing last September, although a judge ruled his fine should be reduced from £500 to £100.

The court heard then that he had told Mr McKillop, whose wife Sharon is a TUV councillor, that he would “split” him with the bottle and threatened to “shove” it down his throat.

Mr McShane denied the allegations and was initially told by the PPS that he would not be prosecuted.

However, prosecutors later reviewed the decision after a request by North Antrim MLA Jim Allister and decided to bring a case.

Mr McShane’s solicitors launched a High Court challenge following the appeal.

Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan was told yesterday that prosecutors had decided not to seek to remit the matter back to the Magistrate's Court.

During a brief hearing the senior judge said “I think that’s a very sensible course”.

Mr McShane said he was happy with the outcome.

“This case has been ongoing for almost four years, and it has had a devastating effect on both my private and public life,” he said.

“I am delighted that I have been exonerated and would like to thank all those who supported me and my family throughout this difficult time.”

His solicitor Michael Brentnall said the PPS needs to explain how it made its decisions, adding that further legal action may be brought.

“My client’s conviction has been quashed on the basis that the PPS failed to disclose pertinent material during the criminal process."

Mr Allister, leader of the TUV, said the PPS had been left “with egg on their face”.

“I fully support Mr McKillop and call for an investigation into the PPS as to how they handled this case.

“As I understand it they failed to disclose the defence something relating to a previous caution, something that Mr McKillop had drawn to their attention.”

The MLA added that Mr McKillop "would very much have liked, and I would like, a further trial so the evidence could have been heard again”.

A spokeswoman for the PPS said it “identified a post-conviction duty of disclosure in this case and took immediate steps to address this including informing the relevant parties”.

“A review of the case was subsequently carried out. After a careful re-examination of the file, it was concluded that while the evidential test for a prosecution remained met, it was no longer in the public interest to bring this case back to court.

“The public interest test took into account a number of factors including the substantial period of time that had passed since the incident, the level of the offence and level of penalty likely to be imposed by a court in the event of a conviction.”

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