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Band members convicted after playing Sash outside Catholic church

Thousands of Orangemen and bands took part in the Ulster Covenant centenary parade through Belfast and up to Stormont last year

Thousands of Orangemen and bands took part in the Ulster Covenant centenary parade through Belfast and up to Stormont last year

Two flute band members broke parading conditions by playing The Sash outside a Catholic church, a court has ruled.

Thomas Beresford and Stephen Walker were both convicted on Tuesday of knowingly flouting a ban on playing non-sacred music during part of an Ulster Covenant centenary procession.

The pair were identified in footage of their band, Holywood True Blues, passing St Matthew’s Church on the Newtownards Road in east Belfast.

A judge described claims they had not seen flashing warning signs on the prohibited section as “inconceivable and incredible”.

Both men will be sentenced next week.

Under a Parades Commission determination only hymns were to be played as bands went past St Matthew’s on September 29 last year.

Bass drummer Beresford, 21, of Strathearn Court, Holywood, Co Down, told Belfast Magistrates’ Court he had not spotted any sign because he played with his head “buried” forward.

Walker, 28, from Church Green in Holywood, also denied any knowledge of the restriction.

Asked by defence barrister Michael Boyd if he would have played The Sash had he been aware, the side drummer replied: “No, definitely not because I wouldn’t want to go to court for it.”

But a prosecution lawyer insisted there was nothing other than embarrassment stopping either man from stepping out of their band once aware of the notification.

Despite Mr Boyd arguing the evidence against them failed to establish their guilt, District Judge Amanda Henderson convicted both men of knowingly failing to comply with the Parades Commission conditions.

She rejected Beresford’s claim to have seen nothing due to his drumming style.

“That is clearly absolutely incorrect from the footage we have of Mr Beresford very enthusiastically playing the bass drum, gesturing to the crowd and looking straight ahead of him,” Judge Henderson said.

“I find it absolutely inconceivable and incredible that these two men would have walked past these signs, both flashing continuously and indicating sacred tunes, hymns only from this point.

“Therefore they knowingly breached the determination because they were told what they were not to do.”

She adjourned sentencing for reports to be prepared.

 
 
 

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