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Tuesday, 11 July, 2000, 20:24 GMT 21:24 UK
Prosecution fear for road block buster
Security forces watch a demonstration in Belfast
Protests: Some protests have ended in violence
A Belfast man who attempted to break through a loyalist road block in Northern Ireland has been warned by the Royal Ulster Constabulary that he could be charged with reckless driving.

Pierce McCann said that he had been left furious by the possible charge - and that he will fight it all the way.

Mr McCann said the police had refused to charge a protester who had grabbed his neck as he attempted to drive through the road block in Ballynahinch, County Down.

And he demanded action against illegal loyalist road blocks which are continuing across Northern Ireland as part of the sporadic protests over the Orange Order's Drumcree march stand-off.

Mr McCann said that he had been attempting to avoid loyalist road blocks in Ballynahinch when he discovered another protest on the main route to Belfast.

"It was right across the road," he told the BBC. "But on my side, there was a little bit of it open and the footpath was clear.

"I mounted the footpath but protesters ran across and blocked my path. I kept the car going nice and easy but I had left my window down."

Mr McCann said a protester grabbed him around the head and the neck.

"I was scared and did not know what was going to happen," said Mr McCann. "I put my foot down and the boy let go and I got past him."

But despite the escape, Mr McCann said that an RUC officer who had been observing the road block ordered him to stop.

He told the driver that he had been "stupid" and that he should have waited for a possible negotiation over access, said Mr McCann.

"They said that they would do me for dangerous driving," he said. "But then I found out last night that it could be reckless driving.

"How stupid can you get? They are going to go and charge me for going through a road block - but why didn't they open it?

"I'm going to fight this, even if it is just a dopey fine."

A spokesman for the RUC confirmed that Mr McCann had been warned that he could face prosecution.

Road blocks illegal

Tom Hadden, professor of law at Belfast's Queen's University, said the roadblocks were clearly breaking the law.

"It is clearly unlawful to block or obstruct the highway," he told the BBC.

"At the lowest [legal] level you can be charged for doing so without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.

"That raises the question of what is or is not reasonable. The courts have always taken he view that a procession is a reasonable excuse.

"But deliberately blocking the road and stopping people using it is clearly not reasonable."

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See also:

11 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Anarchy warning over Drumcree
11 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Q & A: Drumcree protests
11 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Drumcree unrest 'shames' NI - judge
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