Judge brands legal aid system ‘a joke’ as bail of €7,000 paid in cash

Fourteen men charged with violent disorder demanded free legal representation despite bail payment

Gardaí were confronted by “mayhem” when they arrived to a Co Westmeath pub on St Patrick’s Day where an altercation had broken out between two Traveller factions, Mullingar District Court has heard. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

Gardaí were confronted by “mayhem” when they arrived to a Co Westmeath pub on St Patrick’s Day where an altercation had broken out between two Traveller factions, Mullingar District Court has heard. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

 

A judge has described the legal aid system as a “joke” after 14 men charged with violent disorder demanded free legal representation despite posting €7,000 cash in bail between them.

Mullingar District Court heard yesterday that gardaí were confronted by “mayhem” when they arrived at The Stillery pub in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, on March 17th last year, where an altercation had broken out between members of two Traveller families, the Nevins and the Joyces.

Garda Insp Jarlath Folan told Judge Séamus Hughes that on entering the pub, gardaí had to separate the two factions and there was upturned furniture, blood and glass on the ground.

Insp Folan said 18 gardaí, including members of specialist units, attended the incident. One garda sustained an eye injury and was “out of work for some time”, Insp Folan said.

Defendants

The defendants are John Joe Nevin (31), Abbeylands, Mullingar; John Nevin (46), Columb Drive, Mullingar; Daniel Nevin (27), St Michael’s Halting Site, Mullingar; John Nevin (32), St Michael’s Park, Mullingar; David Nevin (24), Ardleigh Vale, Mullingar; John Nevin (31), Grange Crescent, Mullingar; Mike Nevin (18), Kilsallagh, Edgeworthstown, Longford; Hugh Nevin (29), Ashfield, Mullingar; John Joyce (41), Ard Grainne, Moate; Joe Joyce (25), Ard Grainne; David Joyce (35), Hazelwood, Coosan, Athlone; David Joyce (28), Ard Grainne; David Joyce (36), Farnagh, Moate, and John Joe Joyce (27), Farnagh.

Surprise

While accepting the decision to proceed to trial was the DPP’s prerogative, Judge Hughes expressed surprise that the DPP had opted for trial on indictment without giving the option of signed pleas.

Judge Hughes explained that he was making the comments “without any criticism” of the DPP but in order for the DPP to “reflect” on the issue.

He said the case “is going to cost the taxpayers of this country”, estimating the cost to the State could be in the region of €200,000. Each of the defendants was granted cash bail of €500 with strict conditions.

Judge Hughes said it was “amazing” that €7,000 in cash could be produced at the court for the 14 defendants, yet nobody could afford legal representation. All 14 defendants were remanded on bail to reappear at Mullingar District Court on March 10th.