'not lawful' | 

Court hearing abandoned after barrister refused to wear facemask and tore down notices

Holding up one of the signs he had torn down, Mr Eamon Marray BL said ‘how dare you deny me my right to appear in this court without a face covering.’”

Facemask. Stock image

Ray ManaghSunday World

County Registrar Rita Considine had to twice abandon the hearing of her motions list today when a barrister challenged her long-standing direction that face coverings must be worn in her court.

When she went onto the bench, Mr Eamon Marray BL went into her court waving a notice he had pulled from the door of the court and told her she had no legal right to direct anyone to wear a face mask.

“You are breaching my and every other person’s constitutional right to appear in this court without wearing a face covering which is no longer compulsory,” Mr Marray told her.

Holding up one of the signs he had torn down, Mr Marray said: “How dare you deny me my right to appear in this court without a face covering.’”

He said her direction was an order from her court and it was not lawful.

When Ms Considine left the bench Mr Marray proceeded to tear down mask notices on the wall at the back of the court.

Having resumed her seat on the bench Mr Marray again told her it was only her decision to stop people addressing the court unless wearing a mask and it was a breach of the law.

She had no legal entitlement to do that.

Ms Considine addressed Mr Marray for several minutes but it was impossible to hear her over what Mr Marray was stating to the court.

When the County Registrar again abandoned the bench Mr Marray then turned and addressed his barrister colleagues and solicitors, all of whom were wearing masks, and told them to have the courage to stand up for their rights.

“Why are you wearing masks in this court when you don’t wear a mask in any other court in the building,” Mr Marray said.

He told his colleagues the County Registrar was abusing her power.

“This person has no entitlement to tell anyone to wear a mask. Have some courage. Stand up for your rights”

Mr Marray had begun his protest at nine minutes past ten o’clock and continued until 10:21 when Garda Mick McGrath, who was called to the court, spoke with him outside.

Ms Considine was then able to continue her call-over and Mr Marray left the area.

Garda McGrath said he had been summoned by the Courts Service staff to attend the County Registrars court.

Following an earlier incident two weeks ago the practice of pulling down signs was described by a Courts Service spokesperson as vandalism.

In several High Court incidents judges have insisted on those who refuse to wear masks to leave the courtroom.

A spokesperson for the Courts Service, in a bid to clarify the current situation, issued the following statement:

“The legal requirements to wear face coverings in the majority of settings ceased on 28th February, 2022.

“Our policy regarding the wearing of face coverings is an advisory one which was agreed between the Courts Service and Presidents of the courts in early March.

“The signs in use in courtrooms are now advisory signs only as the compulsory wearing of masks in court settings has changed as guidelines regarding the pandemic have changed.

“It is now welcomed but not necessary for attendees in courts to wear masks when not addressing the court.

“Our previous policy was more ‘instructional’ and reflected the then guidelines and rules. It was captured in signs that had the wording that masks ‘must be worn.’”

Maximum numbers of those appearing in courts are still in being but in practically every court they are being ignored by judges, staff, and legal representatives.

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