Northern Ireland news

Two Belfast men convicted of taking part in an un-notified Eleventh Night band parade

Laganside Court in Belfast

Two Belfast men have been convicted of taking part in an un-notified 'Eleventh Night' band parade in the north of the city.

Mark Officer (47) and Thomas Horner (38) were both found guilty over their participation in the march through the Kilcoole area last July.

Belfast Magistrates' Court heard it had been labelled a 'No Surrender lockdown 2020' event.

Officer, of Ardoyne Road, was fined £750, while Horner, from Kilcoole Gardens, was handed a £500 fine.

Bandsmen took to the streets on July 11 despite the Parades Commission having earlier refused permission to march on the route.

Deputy District Judge Austin Kennedy held that a further application lodged by organisers with just 24 hours notice was aimed at frustrating the legal

process.

Officer and Horner would have been aware of the requirements under the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998, he ruled.

Mr Kennedy said: "They both turned a blind eye to the relevant legislation and essentially decided to take part, come hell or high water."

During the contest Horner recalled being invited to a street party and then asked to participate.

"One of the boys said a few haven't turned up, there's a flute, and another fella said stick that T-shirt on," he said.

"People were talking about Covid, that was the main conversation... as far as I was concerned I was taking part in a legal parade."

Both defendants disputed prosecution claims that the march involved going through a "mixed" nationalist and unionist area.

In his evidence Officer told how he had been shielding from the pandemic due to health issues, but encountered other bandsmen when he attended to get out of the house.

"I love the oul' bass drum, they asked me to play a couple of tunes and I said 'Aye, go ahead'," he told the court.

Officer, who was previously convicted of a similar offence in 2013, said he assumed authorisation had been obtained.

Defence lawyers argued that neither accused had any reason to suspect the parade was unlawful.

Convicting both defendants, Mr Kennedy ruled that the legislation applies to parade participants as well as organisers.

He also pointed out that the application on behalf of the Cavehill Cultural Association was only lodged on July 10.

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