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Man said he'd torch sex offenders clinic building, court told

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Activist Steven Bennett

Activist Steven Bennett

Activist Steven Bennett

An activist who occupied a building which had housed a sex offenders clinic, threatened to burn it down and told the owner it was "not over" as he was led away, a court heard.

Steven Bennett (46) was allegedly involved in an 11-hour stand-off with gardai after he got out on to the roof of the building in south Dublin.

The incident occurred last Saturday after gardai arrived at the building with its owner to remove activists.

Charged

The group was protesting after the building in Sallynoggin had been leased to Forensic Psychological Services (FPS), which provides therapy services to sex offenders.

As part of his bail conditions, Mr Bennett agreed not to take part in any future protests in relation to FPS while the case is before the court.

He also gave an undertaking to stay away from the owner of the building in Sallynoggin, as well as Dr Patrick Randall, who is a clinical and forensic psychologist with the FPS.

The accused, of Pearse Green in Sallynoggin, appeared before Dun Laoghaire District Court charged with criminal damage at Church Place in Sallynoggin on September 1.

Gardai had objected to bail, saying they had concerns that Mr Bennett might interfere with witnesses. Garda Sean White said Mr Bennett had been protesting against the use of the building at Church Place by the FPS, a counselling service for sex offenders.

Gda White said protesters began picketing outside the building in July, and had occupied the building at the start of August.

Broke

FPS's lease of the building had finished, and Gda White said the owner of the building entered it with gardai on Saturday.

The garda alleged that Mr Bennett broke a window while trying to get out on to a roof where he was involved in an 11-hour stand-off with gardai.

Gda White further alleged that this provoked a large-scale public order incident and a group of up to 50 people tried to storm the building.

The garda claimed that Mr Bennett threatened, in front of him, to burn down the building and told the building's owner that it was "not over".

He alleged the owner was fearful of what might happen.

Defence lawyer David Perry BL said Mr Bennett denied that he made any threats to the owner of the building.

Mr Perry also said the accused was willing to abide by any bail conditions.

Judge Anne Watkin remanded Mr Bennett on bail in his own bond of €500.

As part of his bail conditions, Mr Bennett is to stay away from the building at Church Place as well as its owner.

He has also been ordered not to obstruct the public's right to access buildings, public roads or footpaths.

The court heard the Director of Public Prosecutions' directions were outstanding and Judge Watkin adjourned the matter to a date in November.

Mr Bennett's daughter Saoirse, who is also an activist, as well as a small group of supporters, were in court for the bail hearing.


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