Thursday 26 April 2018

Decision to charge schoolboy over Jobstown protest 'not in accordance' with law - defence

Protesters during the trial of a 17-year-old for false imprisonment at The Childrens Court in Smithfield, Dublin and inset Joan Burton
Protesters during the trial of a 17-year-old for false imprisonment at The Childrens Court in Smithfield, Dublin and inset Joan Burton

Tom Tuite

The decision to charge a teenager with false imprisonment of then Tanaiste Joan Burton during the Jobstown protest was not in accordance with Irish or European human rights laws, the boy's lawyers have argued.

The 17-year-old boy denies falsely imprisoning the former Labour leader and her advisor Karen O'Connell who were allegedly trapped in two garda cars for three hours during the demonstration at the Fortunestown Road in Jobstown in Tallaght, on November 15, 2014. He was aged 15 at the time.

The Dublin West TD had been at a graduation ceremony at An Cosan education centre when a water protest took place outside. She told the court earlier that she was frightened and did not think she had the alternative of being able to get out of Garda cars surrounded by people shouting abuse and banging on windows.

The State has closed it's case and on Tuesday morning, the boy's legal team asked Judge John King to dismiss the charges. It is day four of the boy's trial at the Dublin Children's Court.

The boy's barrister Giollaoisa O Lideadha SC told Judge King that the the case is “unprecedented”.

Counsel said: “If the charge of false imprisonment is not dismissed, that would amount to a failure to vindicate the constitutional rights of the accused, failure to uphold the right to fair trial, failure to uphold the obligation on the authorities not to abuse their powers and not to act arbitrarily or in a manner inconsistent with basic fairness”.

Counsel has also submitted that the prosecution has failed to prove their case beyond the necessary proof of reasonable doubt.

He said there was evidence from a statement of a Garda Superintendent, who was not called to give evidence, that there was an agreement between gardaí and protesters that they could slow march ahead of a car carrying Ms Burton.

He said that there appears to have been an agreement with gardai and the teenager “was never told he was committing an offence or committing a public order offence or an offence of an entirely different magnitude, false imprisonment. My submission is that the decision to charge in relation to this matter in the first place was not in accordance with constitutional rights and the European convention on human rights”.

The prosecution case is that the former Tanaiste and her advisor were detained by the actions of the teenage defendant in conjunction with the actions of others.

The case continues.

Earlier, Judge John King was shown video footage of the protest. The clips were obtained from YouTube, RTÉ and a garda 4X4 which at one point had been blocked while carrying the former Minister for Social Protection and her advisor Ms O'Connell.

Some people were seen chanting slogans while others were hurling abuse at the former Tanaiste and jostling with gardai. Ms Burton was hit with a water balloon as she walked from An Cosan adult education centre across the road to St Thomas's Church for the concluding part of a gradution ceremony. She has said there was an "air of extreme hostility" at the protest and she and her former advisor said it was not safe to get out of garda cars.

Ms O'Connell said she was hit on the back as gardai bundled them into a car and that she was upset and began hyper-ventilating.

The number of protesters grew and gardai formed cordons around the then Tanaiste to protest her. Det Inspector Derek Maguire described the actions of some of the protesters as being like a “rugby maul”. He has rejected the defence suggestions that there was an agreement with protesters in relation to a "slow march".

Plastic bottles and eggs were thrown at gardai and the windscreen of a Garda 4X4 was broken while Ms Burton was in it, the court has heard.

When questioned months after the protest the teenager denied being an organiser of the demonstration and said he was sorry for the upset he caused Ms Burton.

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