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Youngest Jobstown protest defendant involved in violent disorder avoids jail

CourtsBy Tom Tuite
The boy, who had 20 prior criminal convictions for a range of offences including burglary and robbery, is already serving a custodial sentence which is due to expire in October
The boy, who had 20 prior criminal convictions for a range of offences including burglary and robbery, is already serving a custodial sentence which is due to expire in October

A 15-YEAR-OLD boy, who tried to attack gardai and attempted to free a prisoner from a patrol car when violence broke out at the Jobstown water protest, has been spared a custodial sentence.

The boy, who had 20 prior criminal convictions for a range of offences including burglary and robbery, is already serving a custodial sentence which is due to expire in October.

Judge John O'Connor told the boy at the Dublin Children's Court that politicians are not immune to violence and his behaviour was bullying and designed to humiliate. "You were not involved in political protest, you were causing mayhem, you were causing fear, that is not acceptable," he told the teen.

He imposed a 12-month probation bond on the youth who remained silent and showed no emotion during the hearing on Thursday.

Former Tanaiste Joan Burton and her entourage were allegedly trapped in a ministerial car on November 15, 2014 in Tallaght.

Aged 13 at the time, the boy was the youngest person to be charged in connection with the notorious protest which has seen more than 20 people, including Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy and six juveniles, come before the courts on a variety of serious charges.

Defence counsel Stephen McCrea confirmed the boy, accompanied to court by his mother, was pleading guilty to the charge of violent disorder.

Det Garda Michael McGrath told Judge John O'Connor that then Tanaiste Joan Burton had attended an event at An Cosan education facility on the Fortunestown Road.

An anti-Irish Water protest took place and was attended by hundreds of people and some of them began to act aggressively. He said there was violent disorder for three to four hours while several garda units had to attend the scene.

Joan Burton was "trapped" in a car but it was not alleged the boy was part of that occurrence, said Det Gda McGrath. He said that during the incident the a male had been arrested and was put in the back of a patrol car. A number of youths surrounded the patrol car and refused to let it be driven away.

The court heard that the boy was one of them and he "opened the back door and attempted to free the prisoner". He spat on the car and tried to assault gardai.

The teen was also verbally abusive to a garda who pushed him away from the car telling him: "I'm going to rob your phone, your spray and your wedding ring you f*****g pig."

Eventually the car with the prisoner managed to leave the scene, the court heard.

The boy continued to be abusive spitting at and kicking the garda car and he was also seen throwing eggs. The teen stayed in the area with other youths and continued taking part in violent disorder for hours  after the former Tanaiste had been led away. He still did not go home after being directed by gardai.

Det Gda McGrath agreed with counsel for the defence that the teenager was not politically motivated and he had "just got involved, probably, may have been led astray by others".

The court heard he had criminal convictions for dangerous driving, driving without a licence or insurance, endangering traffic, interfering with a vehicle, unlawfully attempting to get in another vehicle, car theft, violent disorder, assault causing harm, robbery, failing to comply with a Public Order Act direction of a garda and disorderly conduct in a public place.

When he was arrested and questioned in February last year he was forthcoming and identified himself in video footage obtained from CCTV cameras in the area, RTE and from the Garda Air Support Unit's helicopter.

In November he was detained for eight months for taking took part in a vicious robbery in which deliveryman was dragged down an alleyway and attacked by a gang. In March he received another sentence for burglary and is not going to be released until October.

Judge O'Connor was furnished with a probation report on the boy and said the teen has committed a lot of crimes for such a young child. The court had previously heard that this boy had ADHD and has been the subject of psychological assessments.

Defence counsel Mr McCrea also asked the court not to add to the boy's current term in custody and to note the guilty plea spared the State having to call 16 witnesses.

The judge described the incident as bullying and said the boy needed to understand that he had been involved in an attack on the State.

The adults present would have been very frightened as a result of his behaviour which was an effort to humiliate and this could not be tolerated. He also said what gardai had to go through was extraordinary when they were protecting the then Tanaiste.

He also noted that the boy had been exposed to a lot of violence in his family and his mother had gone through a lot. 

Noting the boy's age and the guilty plea he imposed a probation bond on the youth. The teenager must stay out of trouble for 12 months and during that time he has to work with and accept the guidance of the Probation Service who will help to divert him from re-offending.

Breaching the terms would result in him being brought back to court which could then impose a custodial sentence.

Paul Murphy TD and 18 other people from Dublin are awaiting Circuit Court trial. They face a variety of charges which include false imprisonment, violent disorder and criminal damage to garda cars.

Five other juvenile males have been before the Children's Court in connection with the protest. Last week a 16-year-old boy who pleaded guilty of criminal damage and violent disorder during the protest was given a six-month custodial sentence.

One youth, aged 15, who pleaded guilty to violent disorder was placed on probation for 12 months in February. Meanwhile another boy (16), who admitted the same charge, was also sentenced to probation recently.

None of the teens who have pleaded guilty was politically motivated but got caught up in the incident, the court has heard.

A 17-year-old Leaving Cert student will be tried later this year at the juvenile court; he is accused of false imprisonment of Joan Burton and one of her advisors. He has pleaded not guilty.

Two weeks ago, an 18-year-old youth was cleared of committing violent disorder.