Jobstown videos central to defence criticism of Garda evidence
Video evidence in trial was not subject to ‘human frailties’, judge advised jury
Defendants in the Jobstown trial leave the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court after they were all found not guilty on charges of the false imprisonment of then-tanaiste Joan Burton at a water protest in Jobstown in 2014. Photograph: Collins Courts
Seán Guerin, Paul Murphy’s defence counsel in the Jobstown trial, made a number of criticisms of the Garda handling of the case, including accusing a Garda superintendent of being “part of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice”.
Rejecting Guerin’s allegations, Supt Daniel Flavin denied he was part of a conspiracy and said he was “absolutely not” trying “to get a charge preferred against Mr Murphy by the DPP”.
The main criticisms from all of the defence counsel during the long-running trial arose from conflicts between Garda testimony and what could be seen in the extensive video evidence that featured during it.
However, there was also criticism the accused were arrested in early-morning raids and had not been asked to come to the station voluntarily, and that other protesters were not interviewed.
The charges involved the alleged false imprisonment of former Labour Party leader Joan Burton and her then adviser Karen O’Connell after they had attended a ceremony in the An Cosán centre.
All of the witness testimony came from Garda witnesses, other than that of Burton, O’Connell and the founder of the An Cosán education centre in Jobstown, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone.
A video was played to the jury showing Murphy addressing the crowd through a loudhailer and saying there were two options, either to “let them go in half an hour . . . or we just keep her [Ms Burton] here”.
At this stage, Burton and O’Connell were in a Garda 4x4 on the Fortunestown Road, surrounded by protesters.
The video showed a woman, who introduced herself as Killinarden resident, saying, to loud cheers from the crowd: “I vote that we keep Joan here all night. She’s on our turf now and she’s staying.”
South Dublin county councillor Michael Murphy is then seen taking the megaphone and telling the crowd, “I don’t think staying here is an option.” He proposed allowing the 4x4 to get to the Tallaght bypass. It was estimated “slow-marching” the vehicle to the nearby Tallaght bypass would take half an hour.
Supt Flavin insisted he had heard Paul Murphy say in one of his addresses to the crowd: “Will we let her go, or will we keep her here all night?”
Guerin said if there was no video footage, “the unfortunate Mr Paul Murphy would have a hard time persuading the jury that the gardaí weren’t telling the truth.”
Insp Derek Maguire also told the court he had heard Paul Murphy say “they were going to take a democratic vote whether to let her go or hold on to her for the night”.
Michael Murphy’s counsel, Raymond Comyn SC, told the trial there was “something rotten at the core of this investigation” because evidence given by gardaí was proved “demonstrably wrong” in court by video footage.
He was critical of the gardaí for not finding “crucial” YouTube footage which showed his client speaking through a loudhailer and proposing to move the protest on, warning against “argy bargy”, and saying: “This isn’t what we came here for.”
Another Garda witness, Jonathan Ryan, was questioned at length about his evidence concerning the vote. He said a vote was held and a “unanimous” decision arrived at to continue to detain Burton.
Shown the video footage where Michael Murphy and Paul Murphy voted in favour of the vehicle being allowed continue down the Fortunestown Road, only to be outvoted by most of those present, he was questioned by Guerin about his understanding of the word “unanimous”.
Garda Ryan said he had given his evidence as honestly and truthfully as he could, based on what he had seen and heard.
Lengthy legal submissions were made by the defence counsel during the trial, in the absence of the jury, that there was not sufficient evidence to justify the charges being put to the jury.
Judge Melanie Greally did not accept the arguments and allowed the charges go to the jury for consideration. The jury found all accused not guilty, and the verdicts were unanimous.
In two recent high-profile trials involving the former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán FitzPatrick, charges brought against him were not put to the jury. In one case this was because a judge decided the evidence was insufficient to justify it being put to a jury, while in the other it was because the evidence was insufficient for it to go to a jury and also because the investigation that led to the charges being brought, the judge said, fell short of the impartial, unbiased investigation an accused was entitled to.
In her charge to the jury, Judge Greally noted the discrepancies between some of the Garda evidence and the video footage, and advised that the footage be treated as the principal evidence, as it was not subject to “human frailties”.
She also pointed out not everything that happened on the day could be presumed to have been captured on video.
During the trial the judge also ruled that a request early on the day in question in Jobstown, from Insp Maguire, that the protesters leave, did not involve the necessary wording under public-order laws. This meant that rather than being a direction people were obliged under law to obey, it was merely a request.