TD Paul Murphy and 18 others contest State application for separate trials

Paul Murphy
Paul Murphy

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy and 18 others have contested a State application for separate trials on charges of false imprisonment of Tánaiste Joan Burton and other offences following a water charges protest in Jobstown two years ago.

Tony McGillicuddy SC, prosecuting, told Judge Melanie Greally at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court 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.

Mr McGillicuddy acknowledged that the defence teams argued that Judge Greally didn't have the jurisdiction to hear the application for severance and that it should instead be dealt with by the judge who would ultimately hear the trial.

He said the State rejected that submission and said “the jurisdiction is one that is vested in the court and not restricted to the trial judge”.

Counsel referred to various case law from the UK which indicated that trials with multiple accused could place an unnecessary burden on both the judge and jury.

He also said from a practical point of view he didn't believe any court room in the Criminal Courts of Justice would have the capacity to deal with 19 accused people.

Colman Fitzgerald SC, defending Antoinette Kane, (23) of Cloonmore Park, Jobstown, Tallaght, Dublin, who is charged with violent disorder, continued the argument that Judge Greally didn't have jurisdiction to deal with the application.

He also submitted that there was no logic to the State's application because he said they were in charge of drafting the indictment and it was the Director of Public Prosecution's decision to put all 19 defendants on it in the first instance.

Mr Fitzgerald said that it would be inefficient to run four separate trials from the same book of evidence, with the same prosecution witnesses and the same exhibits.

He also said that as some evidence may be relevant to some defendants which is not relevant to others, there would be multiple instances of a trial within a trial to determine the relevance of the proposed evidence.

“Instead of one jury dealing with complex issues, you now have four separate juries having to deal with the same difficulties,” counsel said.

“The jury should have the opportunity to assess the entirety of the incident, in the interest of justice, that they may be able to access the total circumstances involved,” Mr Fitzgerald continued.

Other defence lawyers submitted that juries were robust enough to deal with such complex issues as financial trials and would be able to handle this trial.

Some suggested that if the defendants were separated the prosecution witnesses would be “polished” by the time it got to the final trial.

The argument was also put forward that, in normal circumstances, it should be the accused's' application, not the State's, for separate trials on the grounds of “potential embarrassment or prejudice before a jury”.

Judge Greally said she needed time to consider the various authorities and arguments. She said she would make her decision on May 12, next and excused some of the accused from attending on the next occasions.