Saturday 26 May 2018

Garda pleads not guilty to assaulting RTE cameraman during violent protest

Garda Sean Lucey denies assaulting and injuring cameraman Colm Hand (pictured)

Cameraman Colm Hand
Cameraman Colm Hand

Andrew Phelan

A GARDA has been sent for trial after pleading not guilty to assaulting an RTE cameraman during a violent protest in Dublin city centre.

Garda Sean Lucey denies assaulting and injuring cameraman Colm Hand who was filming while protesters were being baton-charged.

He is also denying that he damaged Mr Hand’s camera during the clashes that erupted when protesters came out against the launch of the Irish branch of anti-Islamic group Pegida.

Gda Lucey, based in Crumlin Station, is accused of assault causing harm and criminal damage at the junction of O’Connell Street and Cathedral Street on February 6 last year.

Today, defence solicitor Liz Hughes told Dublin District Court Gda Lucey was pleading not guilty.

The Director of Public Prosecutions had directed summary disposal of the case in the district court on a guilty plea only.

As he is contesting the charges, Gda Lucey will now face trial before a judge and jury in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

A State solicitor said the DPP was consenting to this and a book of evidence was ready. The book was served on Gda Lucey after he stepped forward from the back of the court.

The State solicitor said the accused could be sent forward for trial to the next sittings of the circuit court on both charges.

Dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and blue tie, Garda Lucey stepped forward again and Judge Walsh told him the case would be listed in Court Number 5 in the Criminal Courts of Justice on October 27.

“You will appear in the list of cases and a date will be assigned to the case in due course, “ Judge Walsh explained to the defendant.

He then gave the accused the formal notice that he must provide any alibi details to the prosecution within 14 days.

When asked if he understood the alibi notice, Gda Lucey said: “yes, judge.”

Ms Hughes applied for free legal aid, handing a statement of the defendant’s financial means in to court.

Judge Walsh granted legal aid, saying he was taking into account the serious nature of the charges, the complexity of the case, the time involved and the fact that it was “somewhat novel.”

Gda Lucey was remanded on bail in a nominal bond of €200, with no cash lodgment required. He left the courtroom after signing the bail bond.

Mr Hand was present for the proceedings, accompanied by his wife, RTE reporter Laura Whelan. He was not required to address the court.

It was Gda Lucey's second court appearance on the charge after he was summonsed in July.

A complaint was made through RTE to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) which had successfully applied to the court to issue summonses against Gda Lucey.

The court had heard Mr Hand attended hospital following the incident and suffered bruising to his groin.

Judge Walsh previously directed disclosure by the State of a summary of evidence including statements and CCTV footage.

The alleged assault happened during a march by Pegida, which stands for Patriotic Europeans Against The Islamisisation of the West.

Clashes broke out when small groups of Pegida supporters were heading towards the GPO from surrounding streets. About 1,000 people turned out for a counter-demonstration protesting against the launch of the anti-Islam group in Ireland.

A Garda Public Order Unit baton charged anti-Pegida demonstrators back to O’Connell Street and set up a cordon in the middle of North Earl Street.

O’Connell Street was closed to traffic in both directions between Abbey Street and Cathal Brugha Street, while Cathedral Street was cordoned off by public order.

Mounted gardai and garda dogs were used for crowd control and Luas services from Smithfield to the city-centre were suspended.

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