Belfast Telegraph

Garda may be sued by Queen’s visit protesters

By Dearbhail McDonald

Prosecutors in the Republic have dropped more than half the cases brought against protesters arrested during the historic visit by the Queen in May.

More than 20 cases, including allegations of public and violent disorder, have been dropped in recent weeks without explanation, it has been learned.

The criminal charges were withdrawn after being reviewed by Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions.

Others were struck out by direction of the trial judge, and in one instance a case was thrown out because the Garda witness due to give evidence against the alleged offender was not present in court.

A number of the protesters are now said to be considering suing the State for illegal detention. They claim they fell victim to ‘kettling’ — a crowd control technique where protesters are corralled by police officers for prolonged periods without being formally arrested — during the historic visit.

It is alleged a crowd of up to 30 protesters were denied food, water and toilet facilities for up to five hours through kettling on the night of the State dinner at Dublin Castle. No arrests were made on the night.

Last night Dublin-based human rights lawyer Michael Finucane said that there were significant costs to the taxpayer for the failed prosecutions on top of a £31m policing bill — for the Queen's visit and that of US President Barack Obama — that had led to a cabinet row over who should pay it.

“There is a cost in the term of the courts' time, administration, Garda time and the fact that all of the people who were charged were on free legal aid,” said Mr Finucane, son of murdered Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane, adding that many of the protesters had given independent accounts that they were subject to kettling on the night of the State dinner.

He added kettling was illegal in Ireland, saying: “It is effectively a form of detention, there is no halfway between liberty and detention.

“There is no middle ground, you are either free to go or you are under arrest. Otherwise, it is false imprisonment, pure and simple.”

The claims of kettling have been denied by gardai.

Factfile

‘Kettling’ is a controversial police tactic for containing crowds during protests. Demonstrators are cordoned into an area for a period.

Police then make only one exit for people to use. Protesters say they are often denied access to food, water and toilet facilities.

It’s called kettling because boiling steam can only escape a kettle via one point.

The technique is being defended by the UK Government at the European Court of Human Rights.

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