RTÉ protester ordered to pay €300 or face jail

A political activist arrested for trespassing at the grounds of RTÉ studios has avoided a jail sentence but was fined €300 yesterday.

About 50 protesters from various groups had turned up at the gates of the national broadcaster in Donnybrook, Dublin, to protest about alleged “media bias”. Gardaí believed some of them intended to disrupt broadcasting of the Nine O’Clock News or the Late Late Show, Dublin District Court heard.

Stephen Bennett, aged 42, of Pearse Green, Sallynoggin, Co Dublin, was found guilty yesterday of trespassing with intent to commit an offence, on the night of January 31 last. He had denied the charge claiming he was engaging in a peaceful protest at RTÉ.

Garda Martin Folan told Judge Bryan Smyth that a large barrier was erected at the main gates to stop unauthorised people getting into the grounds of RTÉ. At about 8.30pm some protesters tried to pull it down and there was a minor scuffle.

When they failed they walked along the perimeter fence and Bennett jumped into the grounds of RTÉ and stumbled onto his knees, Gda Folan said Bennett resisted as handcuffs were placed on him.

Bennett, an unemployed father-of-one, told the court that he was using his constitutional rights to protest peacefully and engage in freedom of expression.

Bennett had district court convictions which included criminal damage, violent behaviour in a Garda station, motoring and public order offences.

Judge Smyth said the fine had to be paid within six months or the defendant would be jailed for five days in default.


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