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Judge raises concerns over Guildhall Square gatherings

Derry man jailed for assault on mother and father

Derry courthouse.

A local judge has criticised large numbers of young people for gathering in Guildhall Square while COVID-19 cases soar in Derry.

District Judge Barney McElholm made the comments during the case of Tina Curtis, 19, of Pennyburn Court, who is charged with two counts of disorderly behaviour on July 11 of this year.

She appeared at Bishop Street courthouse on October 5 for breaching her bail conditions which stated that she must not enter Guildhall Square and had a curfew in place.

Police were tasked to Guildhall Square at 10.20pm where around 40 young people were gathered, mainly female.

The presence of the PSNI in the area led to ‘disorder’, an officer told the court.

Curtis then approached the police and allegedly said: “I’m in breach of bail, gone f**k off.”

It was her second breach, the officer said, with the first involving an incident on the Peace Bridge during which members of the public feared for Curtis’s safety and police had to give chase.

She was out past her curfew on that occasion too.

Objecting to bail, the officer said Curtis has ‘little or no concern’ for bail conditions which was exemplified in the way she approached officers.

He added that the 19-year-old was present with 40 young people and the officer was unsure why police didn’t take action in terms of COVID-19 regulations which only permits up to six people from no more than two households to meet up outdoors where social distancing should be maintained.

District Judge Barney McElholm said it is ‘no wonder’ the incidence of COVID-19 has risen locally when around 40 young people are gathering in Guildhall Square.

“I bet there wouldn’t have been a mask on them,” he added.

Defence solicitor Paddy MacDermott said it seems ‘very odd’ that Curtis decided to approach the police.

He continued: “If she hadn’t they wouldn’t have known she was there.  She brought it on herself, it was bizarre behaviour.”

The court heard that Curtis doesn’t have a record as such but is ‘going the right way about getting one’.

She is known to police and sometimes engages in ‘good natured banter’, Mr MacDermott said, but other times it isn’t as pleasant.

The judge was asked to give the 19-year-old another chance as he acknowledged that ‘gathering in large numbers is not advised’.

Curtis was granted her own bail of £500 with a number of conditions attached.

She was again prohibited from entering Guildhall Square, has a curfew of 7pm-7am and must not consume alcohol or any non-prescribed drugs.

Judge McElholm said it is her final warning.

Curtis will appear before the court again on October 17.

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