Teenage Jobstown protestor to appeal verdict

A teenager found guilty of the false imprisonment of Joan Burton during the Jobstown protest has commenced proceedings to have his conviction overturned.

Teenage Jobstown protestor to appeal verdict

The 17-year-old boy denied falsely imprisoning the former tánaiste and her advisor Karen O’Connell in two Garda cars for three hours during the demonstration at the Fortunestown Road in Jobstown in Tallaght, on November 15, 2014.

He was found guilty last month following his trial at the Dublin Children’s Court but was spared a custodial sentence. Judge John King imposed a conditional discharge providing the youth does not re-offend in the next nine months.

The boy came back to the Children’s Court on Wednesday. His solicitor David Thompson told Judge Timothy Lucey that he was lodging a “notice of application to state a case” and he handed the necessary paperwork into court.

This means the defence will bring an appeal to the High Court and contend that the teenager was erroneously convicted on a point of law. The boy was granted €100 bail and spoke briefly to confirm his signature before leaving with his mother and his solicitor. The teen’s conviction will be stayed pending the outcome of his High Court bid to clear his name.

The Dublin West TD and former minister for social protection had been at a graduation ceremony at An Cosán adult education centre and nearby St Thomas’s Church when a anti-water meter protest took place outside.

She and her advisor told the court they were too frightened to get out of Garda cars surrounded by people shouting abuse, throwing missiles and banging on windows. One protester shouted they hoped Burton would die, the trial was told.

At one stage, Ms Burton was struck with a water balloon and Ms O’Connell was also hit on her back by a protester, the court heard.

The boy’s legal team had asked Judge John King to dismiss the charges, arguing that it was a right-to-protest case and the prosecution was “unprecedented” and a “recipe for totalitarianism”.

The defence also submitted there was evidence of an agreement with gardaí that protesters would march ahead of a Garda car carrying the two women.

However, on October 21, the boy was found guilty by Judge King.

The trial judge was furnished with a booklet of testimonials about the boy, who has no prior criminal convictions. He had also noted the teenager had medical problems which may have been related to the stress he was under.

Judge King complimented the teenager on his realisation of the necessity for social justice. He took into consideration the youth’s previous good record as well as work he has done in his community and for charities — including helping the homeless, for which he has received awards.

The judge also noted evidence of gardaí, including one who compared the scene to a “rugby maul”. He said Ms O’Connell said gardaí had to encircle them in a “cocoon” and the movement was like a scrum and she began hyperventilating.

The defence cited the right to protest and freedom of expression under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, but Judge King held that these protections were not unqualified rights and were subject to conditions and penalties as necessary for public safety and disorder, crime prevention and protection of the rights of others.

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