Six members of a loyalist flute band were convicted yesterday of defying a ban on playing tunes outside a Catholic church.
Despite the fact that half of the defendants did not have instruments, all of them were found guilty of knowingly breaching the Parades Commission’s determination over the march in which they took part.
A judge accepted prosecution claims that they were “in it together” as a joint enterprise.
The six, all members of the Constable Anderson Memorial Flute Band from Larne, Co Antrim, each received a 12-month conditional discharge.
Prosecutions were brought following their participation in a Royal Black Institution march in August 2012.
Bands had been permitted to sound nothing more than a single drum beat as they passed Saint Patrick’s Church, in the northern part of Belfast city centre, on their route along Donegall Street.
It was not disputed that band members played music on the prohibited stretch.
But the defendants, all from Larne, denied knowing about the Parades Commission’s ruling.
Appearing before Belfast Magistrates’ Court were: John Workman, of unknown age and from Craigy Hill; Michael Armstrong, 23, of Garron Crescent; Stephen Read, 37, from Station Road; Ryan Girvan, 27, from Branch Road; Richard Todd, 40, and Darren Lowe, 42, both of Regents Park in the town.
According to defence solicitor Keith Gamble, it was uncertain whether warning signs erected along a route could have been viewed by the band members.
“Even if one person is obscuring a sign it renders it potentially useless,” he had argued.
Mr Gamble also stressed how three of his clients played no instruments during the procession.
Workman was marshalling band members, Armstrong carried a flag, and Todd acted as a standard-bearer.
The other three, Read, Lowe and Girvan, were all drummers.
But prosecution lawyer John O’Neill contended that no distinction should be made between any of the defendants.
“A parade like this is very much people in it together, they are all working together as one unit,” he said.
“The prosecution case is each of these people know exactly what they were doing, whether they were playing an instrument or not.”
Convicting each of the defendants, district judge Nigel Broderick noted that eight signs had been located between Carlisle Circus and the church, including two large warning notifications on the side of police Land Rovers.
He said: “My view is they did see these signs, that they did know about the determination and they chose to disobey the determination.”
Imposing a 12-month conditional discharge on the defendants, Judge Broderick accepted a distinction could be drawn between parade participants and organisers.