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Judge criticises ‘Freeman of the Land’ defences after Dungannon man says he is ‘supreme being’

'Rather than trawl the internet for mumbo jumbo, the defendant should seek legal advice, but I fear that will again fall on deliberately deaf ears'

Courts justice

A judge has laid down the law around persons using ‘Freeman of the Land’ and ‘Supreme Being’ defences and warned such behaviour could see costs awarded against them.

District Judge Michael Ranaghan made the remarks in a detailed ruling after a case of alleged criminal damage was repeatedly delayed by the accused’s conduct in Dungannon Magistrates’ Court.

Paul Kevin Canavan (41) from Millrace Avenue, Dungannon is accused of damaging an electricity meter on August 17 2022, but insists he is a ‘supreme being’ and does not consent to the charge.

He frequently attends court refusing to enter the dock or be addressed by his surname, contending he is “Paul Kevin and making a special appearance”.

Following numerous and often dramatic stand-offs in court, which have also seen him held in custody for contempt, Judge Ranaghan drew a line under this behaviour and the, “plethora of nonsense that common men, sovereign men or indeed supreme beings” use as a defence.

He noted the approach is used by a number of people, “who put themselves either outside or above the law.

“To-date the defendant has been dismissive, rude, obstructive, confrontational, and generally misbehaves. This court does its best to assist personal litigants but the defendant has been the worst example I have encountered. He has consistently wasted court time and public money.”

Canavan, said the judge, “Has people attending court with him who have also been disruptive, including his partner who behaved particularly badly when he was sent into custody for contempt. I am also advised of their rude, confrontational behaviour in dealings with court staff. There have also been incidents of these people recording prosecutors leaving the building and I assume that is under police investigation.

“The defendant is not above the law, nor does he attend by special appearance. He calls himself a supreme being. I have never met one and would never be so arrogant to represent myself as one. I find this concept abhorrent. The defendant wants to be treated differently but I will not do so. He disputes his name is Canavan and claims the case against him is mistaken identity.

“He calls himself Paul Kevin and adds the common touch of such persons with a fingerprint in coloured ink overlaying his signature. Nothing takes him outside the jurisdiction of this or any other court. It may be that those using these tactics think they are being clever. They simply are not.”

It was pointed out Canavan described his birth certificate as “fraudulent” and when asked who perpetrated this, accepted it was potentially his parents.

Judge Ranaghan said: “Rather than trawl the internet for mumbo jumbo, the defendant should seek legal advice, but I fear that will again fall on deliberately deaf ears. He claims Acts and Statutes are not law which is another example of pseudo-legal nonsense. The word ‘understand’ also appears to cause him confusion as he repeatedly utters with theatrical flourish ‘I stand under no-one.’

It appears he claims that unless he consents to laws, he isn’t bound by them. That is rubbish. I will not allow this case to be delayed further. I will continue to assist him as a personal litigant but that will depend on whether he listens.

“He’s his own worst enemy. He and those who accompany him disrupted this court and I am stopping that now. In short, I am on to them. How dare they abuse the court that services the rest of this jurisdiction. The tactics employed are counterproductive.”

Concluding, Judge Ranaghan warned Canavan the court had the power to order costs against him “For the way he has conducted proceedings to date and in future”.

The criminal damage case will be heard as a contest on January 24.

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