An independent councillor previously convicted of assaulting and resisting police had his name cleared today (Tuesday) as a judge quashed the convictions.
Delivering his conclusions at Newry County Court of Appeal, Judge Gordon Kerr QC said that having considered all of the evidence against Henry Reilly, and particularly the fact that body worn cameras were not properly used, “I cannot be sure that they [the two police Constable’s] were acting in execution of their duty at the time of the alleged assaults and therefore I accede to the applications” to quash the 62-year-old’s convictions.
Last June Mr Reilly, from the Ballynahatten Road in Kilkeel and who is an Independent Unionist councillor on Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, was convicted of two counts of assaulting a female police officer and two counts of resisting police arising from an incident at his home on 30 September 2019.
Convicting him last June and imposing fines totalling £1,000 District Judge Eamon King told the councillor: “It’s a tragedy really that a man of 60 years old who is a public representative, a father and a husband should be in court dealing with these offences.”
Those convictions were appealed however and the evidence rehearsed over several days in front of Judge Kerr.
Summing the case to during his judgement today, he recounted how the defendants daughter made two phone calls to police, one to report that she and her mother had been assaulted by Mr Reilly and the other to tell them “they were not required.”
When the officers arrived, the women declined to make any formal statement but an account was recorded on body worn camera during which the women told them Mr Reilly was “asleep in another room.”
Despite the fact he was fast asleep, the officers went in and “aggressively woke him up,” ordered him to leave the house and to surrender his legally held firearm.
Followed by the officers, he went to the kitchen where he was spoken to and during that time, his wife and daughter came into the room at different times and were asked to leave but it was the last time that the incident happened.
Judge Kerr said that as Mr Reilly went to move towards the door, “the officers intervened, they said to stop him going towards the door” but he grabbed the female officer by the back of the head and forced her to the ground with her colleague trying to help her during the ensuing struggle where the officers claimed they were assaulted.
“Cross examination painted a slightly different picture,” the judge added however in that despite policies on the use of body worn cameras, it “was hardly used at all.”
In addition there was also questions raised whether the officers had the power to eject Mr Reilly from his own home given the attitude of the two women who had “tried to intervene in favour of the applicant.”
The judge said he had also given consideration to a medical report which showed that during the incident, Mr Reilly sustained fractures to his left wrist and a finger.
Judge Kerr said it was clear the body worn camera has not been properly used and it was possible that having “just been woken violently” and told it was “imperative” that he had to leave the house “even though there was no power to do so,” that Mr Reilly had gone to the kitchen to get a drink of water.
“It appears to have been seen by the officers as a challenge to their authority,” said the judge adding that they tried to “further express their authority by stopping him” from leaving the kitchen.
He said the officers’ suggestion that Mr Reilly was being restrained to “stop him attacking his family is, in my view, entirely unsustainable.”
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