A busker told Gardaí they would have to “fucking arrest him” and forced them to carry him away after being told to stop playing after midnight in the city centre.
Raymond Witter, with an address at Welllpark House, Wellpark was fined €200 for threatening, abusive, or insulting behaviour under the Public Order Act at Galway District Court after a testy hearing.
The 55 year old busker denied any wrongdoing and disputed the Gardaí’s claim that he cursed at them during their interactions.
Garda Kevin McPartlan gave evidence to Galway District Court that on March 8 of this year, he and two other officers were on patrol in a van in the very early hours of the morning.
At approximately 12:20am on Shop Street they found Witter playing for a large group people including a number of intoxicated women, Garda McPartlan said.
They asked him to stop playing from the van, due to the crowd and late time, and when he didn’t stop Garda McPartlan said he got out to repeat his request.
Witter refused to stop playing, telling them that they would have to “fucking arrest him”, and that he was “bringing joy” to people with his music Garda McPartlan said..
The busker then got down on his knees, put out his arms, and again told the officers to arrest him.
Witter also told the officers that they would have to carry him to the van, as he would not get up, which Garda McPartlan and his colleagues did after arresting him for a breach of the peace.
Solicitor for the defence John Martin said that his client acknowledged that there was an interaction with the Gardaí, but that his client claimed that at no point did he use abusive language.
Mr Martin said that Gardaí first approached his client under the busking bylaws, before arresting him for a public order matter, and that they should have to produce the bylaws, and show they had been breached, in court to justify the original interaction.
Prosecuting Inspector Des Bernie said that this started as a friendly interaction, but that Witter escalated it to a public order offence, adding that the busking bylaws have no bearing on public order matters.
Giving evidence himself, Witter said that he was playing happy birthday to a woman, and went on from that into other songs.
He said that Gardaí watched while he played three songs before getting out of the van and asking him if he had a permit to play.
At one point in his testimony Witter claimed that Gardaí were “ashamed” to be enforcing a curfew under the busking bylaws.
Judge Marie Keane interjected angrily that Witter had to stick to his evidence of this event, and stop using the court as a “soapbox” for buskers.
Witter denied that he had cursed at Gardaí at any point in the exchange, saying that using foul language is against his beliefs.
Inspector Bernie said that he had no questions for Witter, to which Mr Martin argued that if the prosecution was not questioning his client, then they were accepting his version of events.
Mr Martin added that even if the court accepted the state’s version of what happened, it doesn’t rise to the level of a Section 6 public order offence.
Inspector Bernie disagreed with Mr Martin on both counts, saying that Witter had “basically challenged” the officers to arrest him, adding that they were very fair in dealing with him.
Judge Keane said that Witter’s behaviour towards Gardaí was “reprehensible” and imposed a €200 fine with four months to pay.
Recognisance was set at €100 in the event of an appeal against this fine.