Case involving incident during which Tánaiste was allegedly trapped in car raises ‘constitutional issues’
Seven youths, aged 14 to 18, have appeared in court on charges connected to the Jobstown water protest last November, during which Tánaiste Joan Burton was allegedly trapped in her car for two hours.
The case raised “complex constitutional issues” in relation to the right to protest, a judge was told yesterday by a lawyer for one of the defendants. Three of them are aged 16, one is 15, one is 17, one 18 and the youngest is 14, but was 13 at the time.
The males, who could all face custodial sentences, had their cases adjourned until later dates. 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. He was deemed to be at a high risk of re-offending.
The seven, all from Tallaght, had been served with summonses in July, compelling them to appear in the juvenile court yesterday. Their prosecution is being overseen by Garda Superintendent Peter Duff, of Tallaght station, and an outline of the State’s case was given by Det Gda Paul Smith.
One hundred supporters of the defendants came to the courthouse carrying placards and banners.
On November 15, 2014, the Labour leader and her entourage had left a graduation, just after midday, at An Cosan, in Jobstown, in Tallaght (An Cosan is an education facility that serves the local community). A demonstration delayed Ms Burton’s departure.
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 graduation ceremony, said Det Gda Smith.
Gardai allege protesters tried to “get in at” the Labour leader and there were violent incidents. Officers were pushed and missiles were 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-olds and the 18-year-old also have an additional charge for criminal damage to a window of a ’05-registered, unmarked Garda car. The court heard it was damaged during the alleged disturbances.
Another 16-year-old faces two charges for false imprisonment of Ms Burton and her political advisor, Karen O’Connell, who were in a ministerial car. It was surrounded by protesters. It is alleged the 16-year-old was “one of a number of people who prevented the free movement of An Tánaiste and Karen O’Connell”.
Judge John O’Connor heard the other 16-year-old, who pleaded guilty to criminal damage and violent disorder, initially wanted his case finalised yesterday, 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 26, for updated probation reports to be furnished. The teen is serving a custodial sentence, which is due to expire in January, for theft.
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 O’Connor said a preliminary hearing would have 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 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 the teenager, who has prior convictions “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 on and lost the run of himself”.
A report stated he had “significant emotional and behavioural difficulties” prompting mental health concerns.
Judge John 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.
The 16-year-old, who was aged 15 at the time, is accused of false imprisonment of the Tánaiste and her advisor. He was accompanied by his mother and solicitor Michael Finucane.
Det Garda Paul 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 Tánaiste”.
It was alleged the boy was one of them, Det Garda 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. He was not present but his mother attended and explained her son “is not well today”, suffering from a “stomach bug”.
Judge O’Connor ordered him 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 gardaí 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, but a solicitor for the DPP confirmed he was aged 13 at the time of the incident and faces a single charge of violent disorder.
Det Garda Smith said it was alleged officers had been protecting Ms 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 Siochána,” Det Garda Smith alleged. The 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.
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 Siochána exercising their duties”.
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