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Man gets jail for refusing to wear face mask


PRISON SENTENCE Andrew Heasman of Carrowmore, Knock was sentenced to two months in prison for refusing to wear a face mask correctly on a public bus. Pic: Conor McKeown

A KNOCK man who refused to wear a face mask correctly on a public bus, instead ‘wearing it like a hat’ for what he claimed were ‘health reasons’, has been sentenced to two months in prison.
Andrew Heasman (41) of Carrowmore, Knock, who pleaded not guilty to two charges under the Public Order Act at a sitting of Castlebar District court last week, told the court that he was a victim ‘of having an illness on the bus and not wearing a mask’ after Judge Fiona Lydon handed down the sentence.
The public order charges related to Mr Heasman for failing to give his name and address to the Gardaí after he failed to comply with regulations about wearing a face mask on public transport at Main Street, Ballyhaunis on July 14 last.
A second charge under Section 6 of the Public Order Act was taken into consideration.
Mr Heasman represented himself in court, but was accompanied by a McKenzie friend, Mr John Waters, author and activist and a former newspaper columnist. A McKenzie friend assists a litigant in person in court by prompting, taking notes, and quietly giving advice. They need not be legally trained or have any professional legal qualifications.
Garda Thomas Bowens told the court that on July 14 last at around 3.50pm, gardaí were called to a incident on Main Street, Ballyhaunis, in which a male was refusing to wear a mask on a CIÉ bus as per Covid regulations.
When they arrived on the scene, the gardaí noticed up to 15 passengers standing outside the bus, which was travelling from Dublin to Knock. Garda Bowens said that when he entered the bus and approached Mr Heasman, he informed him of his requirement to wear a mask under the Health Act 1947.
Gda Bowens said that the defendant was ‘wearing a mask on the top of his head like a hat’, and that he informed him of the requirement that it should cover the face, mouth and nose.
“He continued to say he was wearing it and that he was not obliged to wear it in the manner outlined to him,” Gda Bowens said.
The court heard that Mr Heasman, who was video recording the incident on his mobile phone and was ‘particularly agitated’, accused the garda of harassing him.
He was also ‘encouraging other passengers to get involved in the incident’ by filming it too.
Gda Bowens then decided to leave the bus for a few moments to let the situation calm down, as it was causing upset to other passengers and because Mr Heasman was continuing to refuse to comply.
Soon after Mr Heasman followed them off the bus and said to the driver: “There, I’m off your fucking bus.”
Gda Bowens then asked Mr Heasman for his name and address, but he refused to provide the information and was arrested.
Giving evidence, Mr Heasman told the court that he informed gardaí he was exempt from wearing a mask for health reasons.
When asked for medical evidence of the disability exemption, he said that under data protection he was not required to provide that information.
The court heard that Mr Heasman was upset on the day, as  his uncle was being laid to rest and he was traveling from Dublin for the burial.
Under cross-examination from Inspector Denis Harrington, Mr Heasman – who has 24 previous convictions, mostly related to road traffic matters – described the charges as ‘trumped up’.
However, Judge Lydon stated that she was satisfied all the requirements were met by the State to warrant a conviction.
She added that gardaí were exercising their duties during a very difficult time in the pandemic, and they had been obstructed by Heasman, whose behaviour was ‘totally inappropriate’ on the day.
Judge Lydon sentenced him to two months in prison for failing to provide his name and address and took the other charge into consideration.
Recognisance was set at €500 cash bond in the event of an appeal, which was later handed into court by a friend of Mr Heasman’s.