The case against a prominent dissident republican charged with encouraging terrorism should be declared null and void due to an error in the prosecution process, the High Court heard today.
Lawyers for Damien “Dee” Fennell claimed it should be halted due to a failure to secure the consent of the Advocate General for Northern Ireland to bring criminal proceedings over a speech delivered at an Easter Rising commemoration event.
They argued that Jeremy Wright’s authorisation was required because the alleged offences relate to the affairs of a country outside the UK, namely the Republic of Ireland.
Barrister Karen Quinlivan QC said: “The charges are a nullity.”
Fennell, 34, of Torrens Avenue in Belfast, is awaiting trial on counts of encouraging acts of terrorism, inviting support for the IRA and addressing a meeting to encourage support for the IRA. He denies the charges.
The alleged offences relate to a speech he gave during a 1916 commemoration event at St Colman’s Cemetery in Lurgan, Co Armagh on Easter Sunday last year.
His legal team are seeking to judicially review the Public Prosecution Service (PPS), arguing that the terror-related charges need to go before Mr Wright, who is also Attorney General for England and Wales.
Ms Quinlivan insisted the graveyard oration made reference to the Irish partition and political parties in the Dail.
“The purpose of the speech is connected with the affairs of the Republic of Ireland,” she contended.
The barrister urged the two-judge panel to deal with the alleged error in the process now, before Fennell’s trial gets underway.
Resisting the legal bid to have the prosecution halted, Tony McGleenan QC, for the PPS, branded the challenge “a classic instance of satellite litigation”.
He also disputed claims the speech impacted on the Republic.
According to Mr McGleenan the alleged offences involved “inviting armed resistance against the authorities in this jurisdiction”.
He added: “It wasn’t directed at any other country.
“The Director (of Public Prosecutions) has looked at it and formed the view this was directed at purposes within the United Kingdom.”
Reserving judgment in the case, Lord Justice Gillen, sitting with Mr Justice Maguire, said: “We need some time to think about this.”