Garda ombudsman granted access to recordings of court ‘melee’ at Enoch Burke hearing

Enoch Burke, who was brought to court by prison officers from Mountjoy Prison, claimed recordings amounted to ‘covert surveillance’

The Garda Ombudsman has been granted access to audio recordings of a court “melee” that broke out during a hearing related to Enoch Burke’s dispute with Wilson’s Hospital School.

Delivering the judgment of the three-judge Court of Appeal on Friday, Mr Justice John Edwards said that “disruptive and disrespectful conduct by some persons attending court” on March 7th, 2023 had caused the court to rise and abandon delivery of its judgment. He said that conduct continued after the court had risen and “represented an uninterrupted continuum of unacceptable behaviour”.

Mr Justice Edwards said the expectation of respectful conduct “does not begin precisely with the arrival of a judge or judges onto the bench and end with a judge or judges’ departure from the bench.” He said that the expectation extends “in the environs of the building where the court is sitting, both before and after the judge or judges arrive onto and leave the bench.”

He said that the behaviour of those in court should be regarded as “part of the proceedings before the court on that day” and therefore the recording of that conduct “constitutes a contemporaneous record of those proceedings”.


Enoch Burke, who was brought to court by prison officers from Mountjoy Prison, had stated that the recordings amounted to “covert surveillance” and to release them would be a breach of his privacy rights and legislation protecting personal data.

The court rejected Mr Burke’s arguments, saying he had shown no evidence that he was engaged in any private or confidential conversation at the time. The court also pointed out that personal data may be used for the prevention, detection and prosecution of crimes.

The judge had also warned before delivering judgment that if there were “any interruption from any quarter”, the court would rise and the judgment would be delivered electronically.

Mr Burke was a respondent before the Court of Appeal in an application by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc), which sought access to digital audio recordings of a previous appeal court hearing involving Mr Burke on March 7th last year.

During those proceedings, a “melee” arose when members of the Burke family began shouting and were forcibly removed from the court by gardaí.

Arising from that, Enoch’s brother Simeon Burke (24) was arrested and later convicted of an offence under the Public Order Act for engaging in threatening, insulting and abusive words and behaviour on or about the Four Courts at Inns Quay.

Both Simeon Burke and his sister Ammi Burke have made a complaint to Gsoc about their treatment by gardaí on that occasion and Gsoc is carrying out an investigation into alleged assault causing harm by members of the force.

As part of its investigation, Gsoc asked the Court of Appeal to release recordings of what happened after the court had risen. It has previously been explained that an “ambient” recording system remains on at all times, even when the court is not sitting. It exists in case the official audio recording system fails or is inadvertently switched off.

After Mr Justice Edwards granted Gsoc’s application, Mr Burke rose to say that he was “appalled” by the court’s decision. He also asked for access to the ambient recordings that are to be released to Gsoc, which was granted by Mr Justice Edwards.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Edwards said that the administration of justice is a “solemn process fundamental to any form of governance based upon respect for the rule of law.”

He added: “Formality, procedures, ritual, and decorum in court proceedings are important because they serve to emphasise the solemnity and gravity of what is taking place and the importance of the decisions being taken.” He said the rules of the superior courts provide a “scaffolding of formal procedures by means of which the courts can conduct their business with the appropriate level of solemnity, gravitas and formality.”

The courts, he said, are entitled to control their own processes and have the power to ensure that they are shown the “necessary respect, not out of self-regard... but rather out of deference to the importance of the rule of law itself.”

He said he has “no doubt” the court has the power to intervene in the present case. He said the “disruptive and disrespectful conduct by some persons attending the Court of Appeal”, which caused the court to rise and abandon delivery of its judgment on in March last year, “represented an uninterrupted continuum of unacceptable behaviour which is properly to be regarded as part of the proceedings before the court on that day.”

The court further found that Gsoc has sought the recordings for the legitimate purpose of investigating a serious allegation of criminal misconduct by members of An Garda Siochana and that the release of the recordings is therefore warranted. He dismissed Mr Burke’s argument that the recordings amount to “covert surveillance”, saying it is nothing of the sort and describing Burke’s claims as “emotive”.

He said that anyone who disrupts court proceedings can have “no expectation of privacy”. He said there was no evidence that Mr Burke was engaged in any private communications or confidential exchanges at any point during the relevant recordings. “It is not possible for him to assert potential breaches of his rights in the abstract,” the judge said.