Shannon conviction overturned

IssueApril 2011
News by David Polden

It was in January 2003 that Mary entered Shannon airport in Ireland and took an axe to a US warplane bound for Iraq. She was arrested and held in Limerick prison before being charged with $1 million criminal damage and released on bail.

A few days later, the same warplane was disarmed by the Pit Stop Ploughshares after being repaired. They were charged with $2.5m criminal damage, but were unanimously acquitted after four trials. In Mary’s case, after two trials, one resulting in a hung jury and one declared a mistrial, she was found guilty in 2005 after the judge refused to let her mount a defence of “lawful excuse” to the jury. (She represented herself.) Mary was given a suspended sentence of two years’ imprisonment.

Mary has spent the years since studying law and launching an appeal against the verdict. The court of criminal appeal heard her case in 2008 but it was only on 25 February that the court issued its verdict, overturning Mary’s conviction.

The court issued no explanation as to the two-and-a-half-year delay in reaching its verdict. The decision had much to do with a change in Irish law concerning “lawful excuse” which, it was ruled, might not have been properly explained by the original judge either to Mary or to the jury.