Two flute band drummers were cleared yesterday of knowingly breaching parading restrictions outside a Catholic church in north Belfast.
Michael Cosby and Richard Dunn had been accused of playing a tune as they passed St Patrick’s Chapel in an act of defiance at conditions imposed.
The pair, both members of the Pride of Ardoyne band, insisted they were unaware that only a single drum beat was to be played on the contentious stretch of their route.
Eyesight and reading limitations formed part of the defence case.
The charge against both men was dismissed after a judge at Belfast Magistrates Court declared them not guilty.
Cosby, 51, of Wheatfield Drive, and Dunn, 26, from Alliance Road – both in Belfast – were alleged to have knowingly failed to comply with a Parades Commission determination in August last year.
The alleged breach was said to have occurred as their band made its way along Donegall Street into the city centre during the Royal Black Institution parade.
The court heard police had put signs along the route and on Land Rovers warning of the restriction.
Despite this, the band appeared to be playing ‘The Dambusters’ tune as it passed the chapel. CCTV footage of the incident also showed protesters holding a banner stating: “Respect St Patrick’s Church”.
A prosecution lawyer argued that band members should have realised from the signs and counter-demonstration that it was not an ordinary situation.
He claimed some others in, and following the band, were pumping fists in the air in “a concerted act of defiance”.
But both men insisted they were never told of the single drumbeat condition and spotted no notifications.
Cosby, a bass drummer who has been in the band for 35 years, told the court he only has vision in one eye.
Dunn, a side drummer who joined Pride of Ardoyne 21 years ago, was equally adamant. As part of his defence he said his focus was on his two children parading directly in front of him. His limited reading abilities were also cited.
After hearing all the evidence in the case District Judge Amanda Henderson studied the CCTV footage before reaching her verdict.
It was confirmed yesterday that a not guilty finding had been made against both defendants.