Wednesday 22 November 2017

Anti-water charges protester arrested and handcuffed at home in front of child (4) in 'excessive manner', court hears

Scott Masterson (34) arrives at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court
Scott Masterson (34) arrives at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court

Isabel Hayes

An anti-water charges protester was arrested and handcuffed at home in front of his four-year-old child by gardaí acting in a “manifestly excessive manner”, his trial has been told.

Scott Masterson's child became upset when she saw her father being handcuffed after six gardaí called to his Tallaght home on the morning of February 9, 2015, defence barrister Roisin Lacey SC told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today.

Ms Lacey was cross-examining Detective Garda Darren Rooney, who denied Mr Masterson's child was present when he was handcuffed.

Det Gda Rooney took the witness stand on day 23 of the trial of Mr Masterson who, along with Solidarity TD Paul Murphy and five other men, have denied falsely imprisoning Ms Burton and her adviser Karen O’Connell by restricting their personal liberty without their consent at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Tallaght on November 15, 2014.

The court heard three teams of gardaí called to the homes of defendants Scott Masterson, Michael Murphy and Kieran Mahon to arrest them at around the same time on February 9, 2015 - a Monday morning.

Det Gda Rooney told Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, that gardaí called to Mr Masterson's Tallaght home at 6.55am. He said there was a child present and gardaí waited while Mr Masterson made “domestic arrangements”.

Mr Masterson was then taken to Tallaght garda station and interviewed with his solicitor present. A brief interview transcript was read in court, during which Mr Masterson identified himself as being present at the protest.

“I attended a peaceful protest,” Mr Masterson told gardaí, the court heard. “I remained peaceful and restrained at all times as is my democratic right.”

Paul Murphy, Michael Murphy, Scott masterson, Ciaran Mahon, Frank Donaghy, Ken Purcell and Michael Banks
Paul Murphy, Michael Murphy, Scott masterson, Ciaran Mahon, Frank Donaghy, Ken Purcell and Michael Banks

Under cross-examination from Ms Lacey, representing Mr Masterson, Det Gda Rooney said six gardaí went to Mr Masterson's home. He accepted that Mr Masterson's youngest child was present at the time, but he denied that Mr Masterson was handcuffed in front of his child.

“I don't recall that it was in front of his four-year-old,” he said, later adding, “I don't think I would put someone in that position.”

He rejected Ms Lacey's assertion that another garda told Mr Masterson to comfort his child after he was handcuffed.

Mr Masterson was making his children's lunches when gardaí knocked on the door, Ms Lacey said. He called to his older child to remain upstairs after gardaí entered the home and then phoned his partner to get her to come home, the court heard.

Det Gda Rooney agreed that Mr Masterson allowed gardaí into his home and co-operated with them. When asked why it was deemed appropriate to handcuff him, he said it was “for our safety and his safety”.

Former Tanaiste Joan Burton TD. Photo: Collins Courts
Former Tanaiste Joan Burton TD. Photo: Collins Courts

“It's often the case when someone is arrested, their behaviour changes,” Det Gda Rooney said. Ms Lacey rejected this, saying: “He was making his children's lunches.”

She said Mr Masterson being handcuffed in front of his four-year-old child was “unnecessary and manifestly excessive”.

“I'm not accepting he was handcuffed in front of his child,” Det Gda Rooney replied.

The court heard Mr Masterson was not approached by gardaí to give a voluntary statement at any stage. When asked why not, Det Gda Rooney said it was the belief of the investigation team that an arrest would be “most appropriate”.

Earlier, Detective Garda Conor Fleming told the court that he called to the Tallaght home of Councillor Kieran Mahon at 6.50am on February 9, 2015.

Mr Mahon was taken to Tallaght garda station, given access to a solicitor and interviewed briefly later that morning. He identified himself in an image taken from the protest and confirmed he was a member of the Anti-Austerity Alliance.

Read More: Paul Murphy and councillor “should have just walked away” from protest, garda tells trial

Under cross-examination from Kerida Naidoo SC, representing Mr Mahon, Det Gda Fleming confirmed that a total of six plain-clothes gardaí went to Mr Mahon's house that day. Four of them were armed. Mr Mahon's children, aged 10 and 13, were in the house at the time, the court heard.

Mr Naidoo put it to Det Gda Fleming that five gardaí entered the house that day and “dispersed around the house”. Det Gda Fleming said he believed only three gardaí entered the house but said he “could be open to correction”. All three were armed, he added.

Det Gda Fleming said they knocked on the front door before Mr Mahon answered and gestured them in to the living room.

He said they waited while Mr Mahon had a “quick wash” but he said he did not believe any gardaí stood outside the bathroom door or went upstairs and stood on the landing.

Mr Naidoo said Mr Mahon had spoken with gardaí in December and said he was happy to co-operate with gardaí and make himself available at any future date. Det Gda Fleming said he was unaware of this.

He said gardaí were also unaware there were two children present before they called to the house.

“Would it not be important before you bring armed men into a house on a school day to know if there might be children there?” Mr Naidoo asked.

“I didn't know who was going to be in the house,” Det Gda Fleming said.

He said Mr Mahon did not make any complaints about his arrest and no firearms were produced at any stage.

The trial continues before Judge Melanie Greally and a jury.

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