A man has been convicted of publishing a photo of judge sitting in court on Facebook and adding a threatening comment, where he alluded to wanting to punch the magistrate.
Lionel Close, 34, from Newtownards, Northern Ireland was caught after a woman scrolling through Facebook who knew him "from her professional work” reported the picture which included a comment from the accused, saying: "wld love da hit him a dig in chin the w*****."
Close, whom the woman said was named 'Rusty Close' on Facebook, was arrested and charged with publishing a photo taken in court.
The charges relate to an image taken in September 2017 which appeared on the aforementioned profile, and then re-appeared in May.
He “published on Facebook a photograph of a person, being the judge of a court, namely District Judge Mark Hamill,” Downpatrick Magistrates Court heard today, with Close appearing via video link from prison.
His contest was conducted “on the papers” rather than witnesses being called to testify.
The Belfast Telegraph reported that the case was "a legal first in Northern Ireland."
The publication also stated that Close refused to answer police questions except for denying once that the offending Facebook profile was his during a police interview.
He also failed to give evidence on his own behalf in court. His defence lawyer Patrick Higgins confirmed to District Judge Amanda Brady that Close had been advised about “possible adverse inferences” of this.
Mr Higgins argued on behalf of his client that authorities couldn't prove beyond reasonable doubt that the account belonged to Close because the police had not seized any devices or produced evidence, such as login details or email addresses which formally link him to the profile.
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“That’s the fatal flaw in the prosecution case,” Mr Higgins said.
But Judge Brady said: “I cannot convict someone on the basis of a no comment interview, but I can draw all the strands together.
“The witness links him to the account, she knows him, he hasn’t given an explanation and more than that, he has chosen not to give evidence and I can draw an inference from that,” said the judge.
She added that: “I do find that the prosecution has proved their case to the requisite standard and I’m convicting him.”
Judge Brady concluded: “I thinks it’s a serious matter… and I find that he was the person who published the photograph.”
The judge said given Close’s denials there was no discount for admissions so she imposed an £800 fine, allowing eight weeks to pay.
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