NewsCrime Desk

Youth cleared of engaging in violence during protest

Youth cleared of engaging in violence during protest

A YOUTH has has been cleared of engaging in violence at the Jobstown water protest during which acting Tanaiste Joan Burton was allegedly trapped in a car for hours.

Lee Brophy (18) of Kiltalown Green in Tallaght in Dublin has become the first person to be acquitted of committing an offence in connection with the controversial protest. 

He had pleaded not guilty to violent disorder at the Fortunestown Road in Jobstown in Tallaght, Dublin, on Nov. 15, 2014. Gardai alleged violence broke out while the acting Tanaiste Joan Burton and her entourage were trapped in a car for about three hours.

The youth went on trial on Thursday.

The case was heard at the Dublin Children's Court because he was a juvenile at the time of the protest and when a summons was issued, however, he has since reached adulthood.

Judge Timothy Lucey heard that Joan Burton and her team left a graduation event at the An Cosan educational centre and they were making their way by car to the a nearby church for the rest of the ceremony.

A large crowd of protesters encroached on the Tanaiste's car and had to be held back by gardai.

It was alleged the then 16-year-old boy threw eggs and was involved in pushing and shoving and jostling of gardai in the exercise of their duty. It was also alleged he obstructed a vehicle leaving the scene with an arrested prisoner.

Video evidence from Youtube, CCTV cameras in the area as well a footage from the Garda Air Support Unit's helicopter was shown during the hearing. However, the Judge held that the evidence did not support the charge and he dismissed the case.

The court heard that hundreds of people were at the scene, garda cars were damaged and officers were jostled and verbally abused. The allegation against Mr Brophy was that he had been throwing eggs which the youth had accepted he had done, twice. He told gardai one landed in a field and he did not know where another egg landed after it was thrown in the direction of a crowd.

The court was also showed a video clip of him in a scuffle a with garda as he was with a group of people who were preventing a garda car, carrying a person under arrest, from leaving the area.

Garda Damien Reilly said that other people in the crowd shouted abuse at him and officers were attacked and garda cars damaged.

He identified the teenager wearing a blue top in the footage in a scuffle and said he had also witnessed that happening. The teenager had accepted that was him.

Gda Reilly also said he believed that another clip showing a person wearing a blue top appearing to throw objects was Mr Brophy.

However, he agreed with defence counsel Shaun Smyth that he had not witnessed that on the day. The teenager had also said he was one million and then 95 per cent sure that was not him when he was interviewed

Judge Lucey said that was not strong enough evidence to identify in that instance and all he could see was a “blue blur”. He noted that during the scuffle at the garda car the teen's hands could be seen striking out but he was moving backwards at the time and was too far away to hit anyone.

Prosecution counsel Tony McGillicuddy argued that a violent disorder had taken place and the teenager was an active participant in a concerted effort.

Defence barrister Shaun Smyth argued that the “elephant in the room” was the lack of evidence that his client acted in a way that was violent or threatened violence.

Judge Lucey held that the youth had been difficult, obstructive, anti-gardai and was getting in the way constantly but he did not see him hit anyone.

He said there was a lot of mention of the teenager throwing eggs but the judge said that was traditional in political protests in the western world for the reason that they break and do not hurt.

Dismissing the case, he said gardai had a difficult situation to manage and lessons must be learned. He said the teenager probably should have been charged with a different offence and there was “a lot more serious stuff going on than what he was involved in and there was much worse behaviour going on that what he was at”.

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.

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.

Another youth is also awaiting sentence for violent disorder and smashing a window on a garda car. None of the three 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.

Another boy, now 15 but who was then aged 13, has indicated that he is pleading not guilty to a violent disorder charge and his trial date will confirmed in the coming weeks.