Jury in Jobstown protest trial urged to be “fearless” when considering its verdicts
By Isabel Hayes
The judge in the trial of six men accused of falsely imprisoning former Tanaiste Joan Burton has urged the jury to be “fearless” when considering its verdicts.
On day 37 of the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court trial today, Judge Melanie Greally told the jury of seven men and four women that she did not expect them to be “deaf or blind” to the political element of the case, or the emotions that water charges caused across the nation.
The judge said the jury might have “natural sympathies” towards the accused men’s predicament. She said they may know some of the defendants from their political activity, and they may like or dislike them.
“You may be concerned about the consequences of your decision for any number of reasons,” Judge Greally said. “I ask you to be fearless and put aside your sympathies or strong views you may have in this case or indeed of the political climate (at the time of the alleged offence).”
Solidarity TD Paul Murphy and five other men have pleaded not (NOT) guilty to falsely imprisoning Ms Burton and her adviser Karen O’Connell by restricting their personal liberty without consent at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Tallaght on November 15, 2014.
Outlining Article 40 of the Constitution, which deals with Fundamental Rights, Judge Greally said that as citizens of the State, Ms Burton and Ms O’Connell were “entitled to their personal liberty”.
“As citizens of this Republic, the six accused men had a right to protest peacefully…and express their anger over the perceived betrayal (of the government),” Judge Greally said.
“The right to protest, even peacefully, can’t be exercised at the expense of the right of personal liberty,” she said.
Judge 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, then the restraint could not be total.
With regards to this case, Judge Greally said the jury must consider whether Ms Burton and Ms O’Connell had a means of escape. She said two such possible means of escape had been raised at trial – that they get out of the car and leave Fortunestown Road on foot, or that the Jeep reverse as advised by the Garda Air Support Unit.
She said a means of escape must be “without danger to the persons confined” and the “age, physical condition and state of attire of the person may be relevant”.
“If you conclude there was a reasonable means of escape or egress available to Joan Burton and Karen O’Connell and it wasn’t taken…then there can be no false imprisonment,” Judge Greally said.
Judge Greally told the jury it was true that the maximum sentence for the crime of false imprisonment is life imprisonment.
She said it was common practice in criminal trials to not inform the jury of the maximum penalties involved because it “may affect the decision of the jury”.
“The cat is out of the bag in this case,” Judge Greally said, adding she therefore felt compelled to raise the matter with the jury.
She said there was a full range of sentencing options available, including many which involve no element of imprisonment. But she said this matter was one for the judge alone to consider.
She urged the jury to “banish all considerations” of sentencing matters when considering the question of the guilt or innocence of the accused.
The judge’s charge continues.
Paul Murphy (34) of Kingswood Heights, Tallaght; Kieran Mahon (39) of Bolbrook Grove, Tallaght; Michael Murphy (53) of Whitechurch Way, Ballyboden, Dublin; Michael Banks (46) of Brookview Green; Scott Masterson (34) of Carrigmore Drive, Tallaght and Frank Donaghy (71) of Alpine Rise, Tallaght have all denied the charges.