Jobstown Verdict: Six defendants found not guilty; Paul Murphy demands full inquiry

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy is demanding a full independent inquiry into the Garda investigation of the Jobstown protest after his acquittal yesterday.

Jobstown Verdict: Six defendants found not guilty; Paul Murphy demands full inquiry

Photo: From left, Jobstown defendant Ken Purcell, against whom charges were dropped, Scott Masterson, Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy, councillors Michael Murphy and Kieran Mahon, Frank Donaghy and Michael Banks celebrate after being found not guilty of the false imprisonment of then-tánaiste Joan Burton. Picture: Courtpix

The six defendants were cleared of all charges by the jury at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, nine weeks after the Jobstown protest trial opened.

It took a jury just three hours and 10 minutes to return unanimous verdicts of not guilty.

The court room, which was packed to capacity, erupted in cheers as the verdicts were handed down shortly after midday. There were cheers of “No way, we won’t pay”, and several supporters broke down in tears.

Judge Melanie Greally told the men once the crowd calmed down: “You have been found not guilty. You are free to go.”

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Murphy said the decision of the jury meant that an inquiry into how gardaí handled the investigation is required.

“The Director of [Public] Prosecutions can only decide to prosecute based on the file given to them by gardaí and certainly it is our view a lot in that file was not true. They amount to lies, so of course, there has to be an investigation,” he said.

Mr Murphy also called for the charges against 11 other persons present on the day to be dropped because he said “the entire investigation is tainted”.

The six men had been on trial since April 26, charged with falsely imprisoning former tánaiste Joan Burton and her adviser Karen O’Connell for three hours during a water charges protest in Jobstown.

All six defendants had pleaded not guilty to falsely imprisoning Ms Burton and Ms O’Connell by restricting their personal liberty without their consent at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Tallaght on November 15, 2014.

The charges against a seventh accused, Ken Purcell, were dropped at the conclusion of the prosecution case after Judge Greally ruled the extension of his garda detention in February 2015 was unlawful.

The accused were: Mr Murphy, 34, from Kingswood Heights in Tallaght; Councillor Michael Murphy, 53, from Whitechurch Way in Ballyboden in Dublin; Councillor Kieran Mahon, 39, from Bolbrook Grove in Tallaght; 34-year-old Scott Masterson, from Carrigmore Drive in Tallaght; 71-year-old Frank Donaghy from Alpine Rise in Tallaght, and 46-year-old Michael Banks from Brookview Green in Tallaght.

Ahead of delivering their verdict, the jury asked to watch garda air support video footage taken on the day of the Jobstown protest.

In her initial charge to the jury on Monday, Judge Melanie Greally outlined the definition of the charge of false imprisonment, which she said must involve “total restraint”. She said if there was a means of escape, or egress, than the restraint could not be total.

Ms Burton, when contacted last night, offered no comment to the verdict other than to say she will make comment in the coming days.

In the Dáil, Solidarity TD Mick Barry described the outcome of the case as “a stunning defeat for the political establishment” who wanted “to create a powerful chill factor” to stop protests. He described Ms Burton as the “star witness for the State” in the case and accused the Labour Party of “a shabby attempt to frame socialists for standing up for their communities”.

Mr Barry said the Government used the Jobstown incident in an “attempt to gain revenge against those of us on the Left who have defeated you on the issue of water charges”.

“The Government is wasting a fortune in taxpayers’ money on these cases. The Left are on the front foot now,” he said.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said the Dáil should not “rerun the evidence”: “We respect the court decision of course. This was a jury trial. The jury makes it decision and justice takes it course.

“While a court case is under way, in this House we have always followed the precedent of not commenting on it in detail. We follow that very carefully, as in many court cases there is always the possibility of appeal, and I intend to continue to do that today.”

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