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Case dropped against driver charged after Union flag protest

Darren Callaghan with the car damaged during a flag protest in Omagh last December.


Darren Callaghan with the car damaged during a flag protest in Omagh last December.

A TATTYREAGH driver who had his car damaged during a Union flag protest last December has spoken of his frustration after police charged him with a number of offences.

Darren Callaghan of Edergoole Road, drove to Omagh PSNI station following the incident on December 6 to make a complaint over damage inflicted on his car, while attempting to negotiate the Crevenagh Roundabout, which was occupied by loyalist protesters at the time.

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However the 25-year-old was left gobsmacked when police instead charged him with driving without due care and attention, doing a provocative act and disorderly behaviour.

It’s believed Mr Callaghan was one of the first people charged in connection with a flag protest.

None of the flag protesters who took part in the illegal December 6 protest were ever charged in connection with the incident.

On Friday all three charges were withdrawn by the Public Prosecution Service.

Speaking to the Tyrone Herald afterwards, Mr Callaghan said he has been left “angry and frustrated” by the experience and said there should never have been a case brought against him.

PROTEST

The Tattyreagh man recalled how he had been driving along the A5 into Omagh with two friends to get something to eat on the night of Thursday December 6 last year when he encountered a large queue of traffic on the major link road.

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As he approached the Crevenagh Roundabout, he encountered up to 40 protesters carrying Union flags, including some blocking the road. A number of uniformed PSNI officers were also present at the scene, looking on, with one officer recording proceedings on camera.

While other cars turned around in frustration, Mr Callaghan slowly approached the roundabout in his Volkswagen Passat in an attempt to access the Great Northern Road.

But the attempt sparked a heated exchange of words with the protesters, who surged around the car. Deciding instead to creep toward the Crevenagh Road, he found that exit also blocked.

Mr Callaghan claimed that rather than clear the road, a police officer approached his car, thumped his window and told him to, “Get the f**k out of here!”

LOUD BANG

It was at that point he heard a loud bang on the roof of his car as a large plant pot or tree was thrown at the vehicle.

“It covered the whole roof, windscreen and back window,” he recounted. “We heard another couple of bangs as well.
“I wanted to check the damage to my car and was going to get out, but the officer put his hand against the door and said ‘get out of here’.”

Driving back up the A5, Mr Callaghan drove to a car wash on the Dromore Road to clean the soil off the vehicle. It was only then he discovered the damage to the roof of his car. Damage was also caused to the car’s two rear quarter panels.

The Tattyreagh man immediately drove to Omagh police station to make a complaint. But after waiting for some time, a number of officers from the scene appeared and instead charged him.

“I didn’t know what to say when he said ‘I’m cautioning you’,” recalled Mr Callaghan. “I was gobsmacked, I said you were there, you seen it.”

DAMAGE

The 25-year-old revealed that the total cost of repairing all the damage has been quoted at close to £1,000. Mr Callaghan later visited Omagh police station in January to eventually provide his account, but a few weeks later he was met with a court summons to answer for three charges.

Always adamant he would fight the charges, a legal team from Pat Fahy and Co was due to argue Mr Callaghan’s case before a district judge at Omagh Magistrates’ Court last week. However on Friday, Mr Callaghan attended Omagh Courthouse, where it was confirmed that all charges were to be withdrawn.

Stating there was never any case to begin with, he told the Tyrone Herald, “I am angry and frustrated that I was taken up for something like this. It wasn’t fair what they did to me.

“They (the protesters) damaged my car on the main road into Omagh and whenever I went to the police station to report the damage, they threw it up in my face.”

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