Two people who were arrested in the run-up to the Dublin May Day 2004 weekend had their cases adjourned today (Monday) at the Dublin District Court due to a shortage of judges.
Judge Gerard Haughton complained that there were too few judges available to the District Court. A judge who had retired in August 2003 had still not been replaced, he said. There were also currently three or four judges out sick.
The trials were due to go ahead today (Monday), but because of the judge shortage, they had to be adjourned. The cases will be heard on November 10th and January 10th respectively.
The two have denied the charges.
There were about 20 supporters in Court 50, in the old Richmond Hospital on North Brunswick St. They had staged a protest outside the court beforehand, organised by the Dublin Grassroots Network, with a banner that read: "Don't Criminalise Political Dissent!"
OK, enough of the straight news report. Here's the story.
J, N and P, all over from London, were picked up a couple of days before the May Day weekend this year and locked up until the whole party was over. All three were charged with trespassing on private property. Yes, you're right: something hillwalkers in Ireland do every day of the year.
J was also charged with "unlawful possession of implements that could be used to cause criminal damage" under Section 4 or the Criminal Damage Act 1991. The implements J is alleged to have had were cans of spray paint and stencils.
Paint and stencils... Yes, clearly this is a man who is such a threat to society that he needs to have his passport confiscated and to sign on three times a week at the cop shop.
P's only charge is trespass and for that she has had to stay in Ireland from early May until November 10th, when her trial is due to take place.
That's more than six months. Imagine for a moment that an Irish person was arrested in Indonesia or Colombia for alleged trespass or possession of spray paint and forced to remain in the country for half a year. A delegation of TDs would probably fly out to meet them and to lobby the authorities. Amnesty International would be called upon to make a fuss.
Or imagine an English or German backpacker accused of trespassing on a farmer's field while hiking in Co Wicklow was ordered to stay in Ireland for six months.
It's a funny one: people from outside Fortress Europe who want to live in Ireland are forced to leave, and then these people who traveled from within Fortress Europe to spend a few days in Dublin are forced to stay.
Is the political element in these cases a factor in the attitude of the courts? Well, immediately before N and J had their cases adjourned, a man who was before the court on a serious drink driving charge had his case struck out (charges dropped, free to go home), because of the ol' judge shortage problem. Judge Haughton explained that it wasn't fair to simply adjourn his case and make the poor man wait a few more months to stand trial, so he let him go unpunished.
But the judge did not see fit to strike out the case of a May Day protestor on minor charges, despite his having already been punished by virtue of being prevented for four-and-a-half months from returning to London to resume his work. He will have to return to Dublin in two months to stand trial.
So, J's case will be heard at 2pm on Wednesday, November 10th in Court 46, which is just behind the Four Courts. The Connolly-Tallaght Luas line stops right outside the court, so if they manage to get that line up and running by then, that'll make it easier for you to get there and lend support.
P's case will be heard on the same day, not sure which court, keep an eye on Indymedia closer to the day.
Finally, those of us who advocate that protesters should engage the mainstream media rather than ignore it or attack it, suffered a bit of a blow to our case on the way out of the court.
A press photographer with a zoom lens was shooting the two defendants as they left the grounds. Several people tried to shield them from his line of sight but he ran and dodged and jumped around and kept shooting. People shouted at him repeatedly: "Leave us alone!", but he kept shooting, eventually from quite close range.
The situation came as close as possible to a physical fight without a fight actually taking place. Protestors tried to block his path, but then a big garda with sides of mutton for forearms came running up the street, shouting: "Leave him alone! He's just doing his job!"
Yes, garda, and he's doing your job as well.
William - DGN