Protest pair seek legal aid to fight contempt cases

John Darcy: Accused of breaching court order.

Two anti-water protesters are seeking legal aid to fight their High Court cases.

The two men want legal aid in proceedings where it is claimed they breached court orders not to intimidate or interfere with workers installing water meters.

In the test cases, John Darcy and Anthony Eccles want the High Court to make declarations including that they are entitled to have their legal costs covered by the State in proceedings seeking their attachment, possible committal to prison, and/or fines.

The pair, along with several other anti-water charge protesters, face claims they breached court orders obtained by GMC Sierra, whose workers have been installing water meters in Dublin City. They both deny the allegations, which are due to be heard before the High Court on Wednesday.

At the Four Courts yesterday, High Court President Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said the applications raised an important issue. He fixed December 9 for the hearing of the applications.

Mr Justice Kearns ruled out delaying hearing contempt of court applications, listed for the Courts of Criminal Justice today, from proceeding until the judicial reviews are determined.

In separate proceedings, both men seek declarations including that they are entitled to legal aid in order to defend the attachment and committal proceedings.

Their challenges arose after being told that the Legal Aid (Custody Issues) Scheme is not available to persons allegedly in contempt of court orders.

They claim the State’s failure to provide legal aid for persons without means who face the loss of their liberty in non-criminal proceedings is contrary to the Constitution and incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

When the matter returned before the court yesterday, Eileen Barrington SC, for the State and the Attorney General, asked the court for time to address the claims.

Jim O Callaghan SC, for GMC Sierra, said the firm intends to proceed with the contempt of court application in order to ensure its workers are protected.

Counsel also told the court his client should not be included in Mr Eccles’ proceedings.

In reply, Micheal O Higgins SC, for Mr Eccles, of Edenmore Park, Coolock, said GMC should be included . Counsel, who agreed the matter should be heard as soon as possible, said other protesters facing allegations of contempt were in the same situation as Mr Eccles in relation to legal aid.

Proinsias Ó Maolachaláin BL, for Mr Darcy, St Donagh’s Rd, Coolock, told the court his client’s action is against Ireland and the Attorney General only.

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