Garda denies assaulting RTÉ cameraman at violent protest in Dublin

A Garda is pleading not guilty to assaulting an RTÉ cameraman who was filming a violent protest in Dublin.

Garda Sean Lucey based at Crumlin station in Dublin is alleged to have assaulted cameraman Colm Hand causing him harm at the junction of O'Connell Street and Cathedral Street on February 6 last year. He is also accused of damaging Mr Hand’s camera.

He faced his second court hearing today when he appeared before Judge Michael Walsh at Dublin District Court where he was served with a book of evidence and sent forward for trial.

The incident allegedly occurred when gardaí baton charged protesters who turned up in response to the launch of an Irish branch of far-right European anti-Islamic group Pegida.

The Garda Public Order Unit confronting anti-racism protesters on O'Connell Street in Dublin last year. Pic: PA

A complaint was made through his employer to Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) which had successfully applied to the district court to issue a summons against Gda Lucey on charges of assault and criminal damage.

The district court had heard Mr Hand had attended hospital and suffered bruising to his groin.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) directed, “summary disposal on a guilty plea only”. This meant the case would only remain in the district court if he pleaded guilty otherwise he would face trial before a judge and jury in the circuit court which has tougher sentencing powers.

The case resumed today when defence solicitor Liz Hughes told the district court her client “is pleading not guilty Judge, to both charges”.

A book of evidence was served on Garda Lucey and a State solicitor said the DPP consented to him being sent forward for trial to the next sittings of Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Dressed in a navy suit, Mr Lucey replied “yes judge” when notified that he must inform the prosecution within 14 days if he intended to call alibi witnesses during his trial.

Sean Lucey.

The judge told him he will face his next hearing at the Circuit Court on October 27 next and a trial date will be assigned.

Ms Hughes made an application for legal aid and furnished the court with a statement of the defendant’s means.

Judge Walsh held that given the complexity and serious nature of the case, legal aid should be granted.

The defence had been granted an order for disclosure of prosecution evidence including CCTV footage ahead of the hearing today.

The complainant Mr Hand, along with his wife RTÉ reporter Laura Whelan, was also present for the hearing but he has not yet been called to give evidence.

Colm Hand.

When an application was made to have the summons issued in July, the district court had heard that violence broke out during a march by Pegida, which stands for Patriotic Europeans Against The Islamisation of the West.

Clashes broke out when small groups of Pegida supporters were heading towards the GPO from surrounding streets. About 1,000 people turned out for a counter-demonstration protesting against the launch of the anti-Islam group in Ireland.

A Garda Public Order Unit baton charged anti-Pegida demonstrators back to O'Connell Street and set up a cordon in the middle of North Earl Street.

O'Connell Street was closed to traffic in both directions between Abbey Street and Cathal Brugha Street, while Cathedral Street was cordoned off by public order.

Mounted gardaí and garda dogs were used for crowd control and Luas services from Smithfield to the city centre were suspended.

The Pegida movement has its origins in Germany, mainly a response to the European refugee crisis.

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