Wednesday 13 December 2017

'The State has failed to bring a charge that could be proven', jury hears in Jobstown water protest trial

Paul Murphy. Picture: Collins
Paul Murphy. Picture: Collins

Isabel Hayes

The jury in the trial of six men accused of falsely imprisoning the former Tánaiste Joan Burton during a water charges protest is due to begin deliberations on Monday.

Closing speeches ended this morning with defence lawyers telling the jury that the State has failed to bring a charge that could be proven.

On day 36 of the trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Melanie Greally told the jury she will deliver her charge on Monday morning and they will then begin deliberations.

Before this, Ciaran O'Loughlin SC, representing Michael Banks, gave the final closing speech to the jury.

Mr Banks (46) along with Solidarity TD Paul Murphy and four other men have pleaded not guilty to falsely imprisoning Ms Burton and her adviser Karen O’Connell by restricting their personal liberty without consent at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Tallaght on November 15, 2014.

The prosecution has alleged that Mr Banks acted with the other defendants to falsely imprison Ms Burton and Ms O'Connell by surrounding their cars.

Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, told the jury earlier this week that video footage taken from inside the car showed Mr Banks making “crude and unpleasant gestures” at the women and yelling “Up your arse”.

The trial heard that in garda interview, Mr Banks accepted blocking the Avensis car. When asked if it was able to leave he replied, “How could it when we were sitting behind it?”

The court also previously heard evidence from Garda Jonathan Ryan who said Mr Banks called him a wife beater after the guard helped a woman in the crowd who had fallen.

Mr O'Loughlin told the jury that during the trial they had “been to the movies” and watched several video clips of footage taken during the protest that day. He submitted that by watching that footage, they saw “everything that happened” that day.

Mr O'Loughlin accepted that his client had used language that was “rude and vulgar” but he told the jury that was not an offence,

“Simply to use insulting words is not a crime,” he said.

He said the jury should also disregard any evidence of possible “argy-bargy” between Mr Banks and Gda Ryan. “It's nothing to do with the matters your concerned about,” he said, adding, “Giving lip to a garda is not an offence”.

Mr O'Loughlin said the DPP decides what charges to bring, and that she had the choice of several charges under the Public Order Act, including breach of peace, failure to disperse and obstructing traffic.

He submitted that by bringing a charge of false imprisonment against his client, the DPP “hasn't picked an offence that can be proved”. There was “no evidence, good, bad or indifferent” that his client committed an offence of false imprisonment, he said.

He said what happened to Joan Burton was “unpleasant” but that the case against the accused was a “storm in a teacup”.

"Maybe the reason for that was there were 250 to 300 people there and the sheer volume of people made it impossible for the cars to move,” he said.

Mr O'Loughlin said there was no evidence at all that at any time during that afternoon did Mr Banks decide, 'I don't care anymore. I'm not letting these women leave'.

“Nobody was to blame unless everybody was to blame including bystanders,” he said. “The whole thing was unfortunate but there is no evidence Michael Banks was to blame.”

He urged the jury to find his client not guilty of the charges against him.

Paul Murphy of Kingswood Heights, Tallaght; Kieran Mahon of Bolbrook Grove, Tallaght; Michael Murphy of Whitechurch Way, Ballyboden, Dublin; Frank Donaghy of Alpine Rise, Tallaght; Michael Banks (46) of Brookview Green, Tallaght and Scott Masterson of Carrigmore Drive, Tallaght have all denied the charges.

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