BY Tom Tuite @tomtuite1
Seven youths aged 14 to 18 are facing trial on charges connected to the Jobstown water protest last November during which Tanaiste Joan Burton was allegedly trapped in her car for over two hours.
The case raised “complex constitutional issues” in relation to the right to protest, a judge was told today by a lawyer for one of the defendants.
Three of them are aged 16, there is one 15-year-old, one aged 17, an 18-year-old and the youngest who is aged 14 but who was 13 at the time.
The young males, who could all face custodial sentences, had their cases adjourned until later dates and a guilty plea was entered by just one of them to criminal damage and violent disorder charges.
The Dublin Children's Court heard he was already serving a sentence for earlier offences and he had behavioural and drug problems, and was deemed to be at a high risk of re-offending as a result of his issues.
The young males, who all come from the Tallaght area and had been served with summons in July compelling them to appear in the juvenile court yesterday/today (THUR). Their prosecution is being overseen by Garda Superintendent Peter Duff of Tallght station and an outline of the State's case was given by Det Gda Paul Smith.
About a hundred supporters came to the courthouse today carrying placards and banners.
The Labour leader and her entourage had left a graduation just after midday on November 15 last at An Cosan in Jobstown, in Tallaght an education facility that serves the local community when demonstration was held which delayed her.
She and her team had been attempting to travel by car to St Thomas's Church, a short distance away, for the rest of the ceremony, said Det Gda Smith.
Gardai allege protesters tried to “get in at” the Labour leader and there were a number of violent incidents during which officers were pushed and missiles thrown.
Six of the youths, including the 14-year-old boy, are charged with violent disorder by using or threatening to use unlawful violence causing others to fear for their safety.
Two of the 16-year-old boys and the 18-year-old youth also have an additional charge for criminal damage to a window of a '05-reg unmarked Garda car. The court heard it was damaged during the alleged disturbances.
Another 16-year-old faces two charges for false imprisonment of Tanaiste Joan and her political advisor Karen O'Connell who were in a ministerial car which was surrounded by protesters. It was alleged he was “one of a number of people who prevented the free movement of An Tanaiste and Karen O'Connell”.
Judge John O'Connor heard that the other 16-year-old boy, who pleaded guilty to criminal damage and violent disorder, initially wanted his case finalised today but the judge noted that the latest welfare reports on him were negative. His solicitor Michelle Finan said the boy regrets his involvement and he had “got caught up in the excitement of what was going and lost the run of himself”.
She later confirmed that the teen agreed to an adjournment until November 26th for updated probation reports to be furnished. The teen is serving a custodial sentence, which is due to expire in January, for theft offences.
Judge O'Connor said the boy, who has been hospitalised on 14 occasions over the past two years with serious injuries, was highly vulnerable but had a supportive family and there had been some positivity in his proceedings.
The DPP also recommended that the remaining five juveniles, who cannot be named, should be tried in the Children's Court and not in the circuit court which has tougher sentencing powers. However, Judge John O'Connor said that a preliminary hearing would have to take place to establish if the Children's Court would accept jurisdiction for their trials. These teens, who were also accompanied to court by their lawyers and parents, were ordered to appear again in December.
The 18-year-old, Calvin Carlyle, from Gleann na hEorna, Tallaght, is now an adult and could not attend. His mother explained that he was unwell and Judge O'Connor ordered him to appear next week.
State solicitor Rachel Joyce said the DPP has directed that unlike the juveniles, he should be tried in the circuit court.
Several adults, including Anti Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy are due to appear in court next week in connection with the incident.
Now aged 16, but was 15 at the time, was in court with his mother and a grandparent. After pleading guilty to criminal damage and violent disorder charges, his solicitor Michelle Finan explained that the teenager, who has prior convictions for theft and currently serving a sentence, “regrets what happened”. He sat silently as the court was told how psychological and welfare assessments described him as “most vulnerable”. He required “therapeutic support but refused to engage” and had been hospitalised 14 times in the last two years with serious injuries.
His solicitor said the boy regrets his involvement and he had “got caught up in the excitement of what was going and lost the run of himself”.
A report stated he had “significant emotional and behavioural difficulties” prompting mental health concerns. Judge O'Connor said the teen's other issues included: negative peers, anti-social incidents, involvement with pro-criminal gangs and drug issues.
However, he noted a recent probation report was negative but that the boy had entered a guilty plea and said he wanted to “go with the positivity that is here today, but I need him to come with me some of the way”.
The boy quietly answered, “yeah” in agreement when the judge commented that he had been positive in court and has been working well in the Oberstown centre, where he is serving his current term.
“I want you to succeed in relation to this,” he told the boy as he adjourned sentencing for an updated probation report.
Now aged 17 but was aged 16 at the time and faces one count of criminal damage arising out the incidents. His solicitor Cahir O'Higgins said the case raised complex constitutional issues in relation to the right to protest. He said the teen's literacy skills were not on the same level “ordinarily the case for a youngster who continued normal education”.
The 16-year-old, who was aged 15 at the time, is accused of false imprisonment of the Tanaiste and her advisor. He was accompanied to the proceedings by his mother and his solicitor Michael Finucane. Det Garda Smith said it was alleged that as Joan Burton and her entourage were being brought to St Thomas's church, some of the protesters tried to “get at her, tried to prevent the movement of An Tanaiste”. It was alleged the boy was one of them, Det Gda Smith said.
The court heard he was aged 17 at the time but is now 18, an adult, and the DPP has directed he should be tried at Circuit Court level. That youth was not present for the proceedings but his mother attended and explained her son “is not well today” and was suffering from a “stomach bug”. Judge O'Connor ordered her son to appear next week. The Children's Court cannot consider accepting jurisdiction for his case because he is now an adult.
The 16-year-old was allegedly throwing missiles at gardai and is also accused of damaging the windscreen of an unmarked Garda Ford Focus.
The youngest of the group to face the court was aged 14, however a solicitor for the DPP confirmed that he was aged 13 at the time of the incident and faces a single charge of violent disorder. Det Gda Smith said it was alleged officers has been protecting Joan Burton and her entourage. For the following three to four hours, it was claimed, there was a number of violent disorder offences, he said.
“This young man was participating in relation to throwing of missiles at members of An Garda Siochana,” Det Gda Smith alleged.
The small boy was accompanied to court by his mother, a sibling and his barrister, and answered quietly saying “yes” when asked by the judge if he understood what was happening. He was then told he will face his next hearing in December.
Teen 7. The last of the group to appear in court was a 16-year-old boy, also accused of violent disorder by throwing missiles and engaging in “pushing and shoving of members of An Garda Siochana exercising their duties”.