NewsCourts

Judge rules water protesters will not go on trial together

Paul Murphy
Paul Murphy

A judge has ruled that Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy and 18 other people should have separate trials on charges of false imprisonment of Joan Burton and other offences following a water charges protest in Jobstown two years ago.

Mr Murphy (32) with an address of The Copse, Woodpark, Ballinteer appeared at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court along with 18 others, some facing charges of false imprisonment and violent disorder.

Among the group of accused are Dublin Councillor Kieran Mahon (38) of Bolbrook Grove, Tallaght and Anti Austerity Alliance Councillor Michael Murphy (50) of Whitechurch Way, Ballyboden.

Judge Melanie Greally said that to try all the accused together would place unrealistic demands on jurors, who may be robust but were “not superhuman”.

She made her ruling following legal argument from both the State and the defence earlier this month.

Tony McGillicuddy BL, prosecuting, told the court at that hearing that there were 45 counts on the indictment including false imprisonment, violent disorder and criminal damage.

He said it was the prosecution's position that there was “a case to have the case tried in manageable blocks” of four separate trials.

The defence argued that Judge Greally didn't have jurisdiction to deal with an application for severance in the first instance as it should be dealt with the judge who will ultimately be hearing the trial.

Colman Fitzgerald SC, defending Antoinette Kane, (23) of Cloonmore Park, Jobstown, Tallaght, Dublin submitted that there was no logic to the State's application.

He said they were in charge of drafting the indictment, the document outlining the offences each accused is charged with, and it was the Director of Public Prosecution's decision to put all 19 defendants on it in the first instance.

Today Judge Greally said she had interpreted the relevant legislation and concluded that she did have jurisdiction to sever the indictment.

 However, she said, as she has since been nominated the trial judge this argument was no longer relevant.

She had considered the law in relation to the court's power to change an indictment.

She said she was satisfied that, on her interpretation of the legislation, the court did have the authority to alter it.

“In my view the interest of justice would not be best served by trying them all together.

It would place wholly unrealistic demands on both the judge and jury,” Judge Greally said,

She accepted previous argument from the defence that juries have proven to be robust but she added they are “not super human”.

Judge Greally said also in practical terms the Criminal Courts of Justice complex would not be able to accommodate a trial of 19 accused people, a potentially three person defence team for each and the State's barristers and solicitors.

She ruled that the accused should be separated into more manageable groups but said those groups should “not be considered in a vacuum” rather instead divided in such a way that was relevant to the proposed evidence in relation to each accused.

Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, said the defence teams have already received letters from the DPP outlining the proposed groupings and suggested that if they see a potential prejudice with what is proposed, a date should be set for legal argument to deal with it.

Judge Greally adjourned the case to July 22 next (2016) to allow for any argument and to set trial dates. She remanded each accused on bail until that date.

Ms Burton and her entourage had left a graduation event at An Cosan Education Centre at Jobstown, Tallaght when a demonstration was held which delayed her for about two hours on November 15th, 2014.

She and her team had been attempting to travel by car to St Thomas’ Church for the rest of the ceremony when it is alleged violence broke out.

The three public representatives are charged with false imprisonment of Ms Burton and of Karen O'Connell at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown.

Thirteen others are charged with false imprisonment while nine people are charged with violent disorder.