Friday 20 April 2018

Father and daughter accused of criminal damage at Israeli embassy

Andrew Phelan

A FATHER and daughter have been accused of breaking a sign at the Israeli embassy in Dublin during a protest at the weekend.

Activists Stephen (42) and Saoirse Bennett (20) were arrested and brought before Dublin District Court today charged with causing criminal damage at the embassy.

Judge Michael Coghlan granted bail and adjourned the cases to a date in September.

The defendants, from Pearse Green, Sallynoggin, are both charged with causing criminal damage to a sign at the Israeli embassy on Pembroke Road on July 19.

They are also charged with one count each of resisting arrest, while Stephen Bennett faces a third charge of resisting gardai again at the US embassy on the same date.

Garda Sergeant Niall Murphy handed evidence of the defendants’ arrest, charge and caution in to court by certificate.

He said a bail condition was sought that Saoirse Bennett stays away from the Israeli embassy.

It was alleged that a sign was broken on top of a wall outside the building and she was arrested not far away.

Judge Coghlan remarked that while people were entitled to protest “if there is vandalism, it detracts from their own protest. Vandalism doesn’t advance their cause.”

Applying for bail on Ms Bennett’s behalf, Solicitor Michael Finucane said she had engaged in protests but the evidence of criminal damage had yet to be produced and it could have been caused by “one or any number of people in and around the embassy.”

The judge said under bail conditions, Ms Bennett must refrain from trespassing on private property, to wit the Israeli embassy. She must also be of good behaviour.

“I am looking at the context in which these issues have arisen,” the judge said.

Solicitor Cahir O’Higgins said Mr Bennett “is happy to protest in a lawful and peace-abiding manner but he is most anxious to continue with his activism and protest legitimately.”

Judge Coghlan said legitimate protest “doesn’t involve acts of violence to the gardai or criminal damage to property.”

Mr O’Higgins said the defendant would undertake not to break the law.

The sergeant asked if Mr Bennett could be required not to enter the embassy grounds but the judge said this was covered by the accused’s undertaking.

Both lawyers asked for disclosure of statements and CCTV evidence but the judge deferred this after the garda sergeant said time was being sought to collect evidence and get the DPP’s directions.

Both defendants, who are unemployed, were remanded on bail. Legal aid was granted to Mr Bennett, but this was deferred for his daughter, subject to her filing a statement of her financial means.

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