Appearing at Newry Magistates Court by videolink from police custody, 32-year-old Declan Trainor confirmed his first name and had to be asked three times to confirm his date of birth but remained silent when asked if he understood the charge against him.
Representing himself, Trainor told the court clerk “my name is Declan, I’m a man...I’m a living human” when asked to confirm his identity.
Trainor, from Rossmara Park in Warrenpoint, is charged that “without reasonable excuse” he contravened a requirement under Covid health restriction on 1 December this year.
The charge arises following a handful of videos, shot by Trainor himself at The Gym in Newry City, which shows half a dozen officers arresting him after they gained entry to his premises as he debates with them the legalities of their actions.
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In the videos, which have been shared thousands of times across social media platforms and which have attracted both vehement support and stinging criticism, Trainor calls on the public to “take a stand” against Covid restrictions.
Ahead of the court appearance, a spokesperson for the PSNI said: “Police in Newry received reports of a suspected potential breach of Health Protection (Coronavirus Regulations Northern Ireland) Regulations at a gym in Newry on Friday 27 November.
“The owner was spoken to by police and encouraged to follow the current regulations that are in place. A Covid 2 Prohibition Notice and a Covid 5 penalty notice were issued.”
The PSNI spokesperson continued: “Police again called to the premises on a number of occasions over the past few days and a number of Covid 4 penalty notices were issued yesterday to people using the services at the gym in breach of the current regulations.
In court today a police officer testified that he was satisfied the man who appeared from police custody is the defendant, adding that he believed he could connect Trainor to the offence.
“He was arrested at his gym last night at 8.30pm and he has been in custody since - he believes he is a freeman,” said the officer.
A prosecuting lawyer said the charge “is not settled but we can take a plea.”
Freeing a silent Trainor on his own bail of £250, District Judge Eamon King ordered him to appear again on 23 December.