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Indymedia Cameraman cleared in Court

category national | miscellaneous | news report author Monday May 27, 2002 21:28author by Aidan O'Brien - IMC Irelandauthor email aidanobrien at esatclear dot ie Report this post to the editors

Rowan Dempsey was today cleared in Dublin District court of charges relating to the Burlington PPP protests. He is the second Indymedia cameraman whos been up in court this year and the second to be aquitted.

Rowan's case had been adjourned from two weeks previously.

Rowan had been charged with two breaches of the Public order act and under section 9 of the firearms act.

Speaking for the prosecution Detective Sergeant Kevin Stratford claimed that on the night in question in the midst of the protests, he attempted to apprehend a protestor who had struck him across the head. While moving to arrest this unknown protestor he had been blocked and shoved three times by Mr. Dempsey. Later after the Garda¨ªhad drawn batons and charged the protestors after repeatedly ordering them to disperse, they noticed Rowan and went to apphrend him, he ran, they pursued; arresting him outside the grounds of the hotel, after catching him. When he was taken the station and searched they found a blade in his pocket.

Rowan's defense argued that the Garda¨ª only arrested Rowan after the baton charge and the protestors began chanting "We've got it on camera", they then pursued him and he stopped; allowing the Garda¨ª to arrest him outside the Burlington. He denied shoving the Garda¨ª and pointed out that the "knife" was part of a "credit card" knife held in his wallet and the blade was a mere 1 1/2 inches, part of a whole set of tools contained in the gadget.

The fact that the Garda¨ª seized the tapes for over two weeks, only returning his footage and camera after sixteen days and a court order was issued, was brought up, and the suggestion that the Garda¨ª had fabricated the charges in order to suppress the footage was danced around, to the Judge's annoyance.

Today the video evidence from Rowan's camera was viewed in its entirety at the insistent of the prosecution. Watching interviews with eyewitnesses, speakers and protestors, for over half an hour, until the scenes, which sparked the baton charge. The defense stopped and started the tape pointing out the location of the arresting officer in relation to Rowan and the duration of breaks in the time code to see how much time had elapsed between shots.

During the prosecutions cross examination Rowan was asked repeatedly about his knowledge and skill level of Ta Kaeon Do, and it was argued that he'd instinctually respond to a shove with a block. Rowan calmly stated that before each training session his class always vowed never to use their martial arts outside the Dojo. The prosecution dwelled on the fact that Rowan was not a member of the NUJ but rather a protestor with a camcorder. Rowan refuted this and explained Indymedia role and policy on demonstrations.

Before recess Rowan's barrister summed up, arguing that the footage displayed inconsistencies in the chronology and location as stated by the Garda¨ª Furthermore he produced the statement by Inspector Comisky, which contradicted the officers recollection of what occurred. They pointed out that the charge relating to the knife was tacked on several weeks after his arrest, implying that this had only been done to bolster the other weak charges. Finally he gave evidence to Rowan's character (his charity work) and his legimacy as a videographer.

His argument rested on the fact that the prosecution was claiming that Rowan's breaches of the Public order act occurred during a point when Rowan's camera was switched off. Establishing that this could only happen within a two-minute time gap on the camera, and the positions of Rowan Dempsey in relation to Det. Stratford as shown on the tape moments before this event was alleged to occur, the distance and positions (Rowan in the back, of the crowd, Stratford at the front) of the two, exposed flaws in the Garda¨ªclaim that Rowan was in a position to impede him. Finally Rowan's barrister re-iterated the fact the burden of proof rested on the state, and this clearly had not been established.

The judge took his time before announcing his ruling; taking opportunity to vent his opinion, and express his attitude towards these protestors. Stating that the behavior of this people was a "direct opposite" to true democracy, which we had "witnessed in its ultimate form recently". He agreed that Rowan went to this protest with the genuine intention to document what occurred, albeit through a "skewed" and "biased" perspective.

He agreed that the state had not proven to a degree that he was satisfied with that Rowan had intentially blocked the Garda¨ª though he suggested that Rowan might have unintentially blocked the Garda¨ª. He commended Rowan's demeanor and calm while in the witness stand, repeatedly, making it abundantly clear that this was a factor in his ruling.

In relation to the firearms charge (the pen knife) the Judge agreed that the knife was a "novelty item" and dismissed the charge stating that they were unreasonable since the blade had been secured in the holder which was inside Rowan's wallet inside his pocket (Refuting the Garda¨ª claim that the credit card knife was loose in his pocket). But he confiscated the knife stating that Mr. Dempsey should not have been carrying such an object in the first place.

Finally after dismissing all charges, the Judge suggested that Rowan should balance his viewpoint and make a documentary showing the difficulties faced by Garda¨ª daily, while going about their duties.

Rowan is the second Indymedia video journalist to stand trial this year for charges relating to their covering of protests. Wolfe Fishbourne had been in court in March, but in his case the Garda¨ªwere incapable of making charges against him. In both cases video footage played a crucial role.

author by martypublication date Mon May 27, 2002 22:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

author by Phuq Heddpublication date Tue May 28, 2002 02:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The judge took his time before announcing his ruling; taking opportunity to vent his opinion, and express his attitude towards these protestors. Stating that the behavior of this people was a "direct opposite" to true democracy, which we had "witnessed in its ultimate form recently". He agreed that Rowan went to this protest with the genuine intention to document what occurred, aalbeit through a "skewed" and "biased" perspective.
--------------------------------------------------

The above paragraph is a little unclear. Perhaps the author could clarify it?

Anyway, it's great that Rowan was not found guilty, but is he going to be compensated for the assault upon his freedom?

Was the judge concerned at the quenching effect that Gardai/thug actions like this might have upon independent media?

Who was the judge?

Are the Gardai going to be facing prosecution for this attempt to interfere with citizens?

How do they find the time to make up charges like this when they've got so many crooks in office to look after?

And what the hell is the judge doing confiscating a 1.5 inch blade? Is he saying that I'm not allowed to carry a 1.5 inch penknife in my pocket?

How is a knife a "firearm"?

What sort of mental country are we living in?

author by Bazpublication date Tue May 28, 2002 02:40author email Marchantseven at yahoo dot co dot ukauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Make a documentary about the garda hardship? sorry but if I were allowed into a cell were the poor garda has his hand repeatedly battered by a detainee's kidney I would!

author by Joe Sheehan - Just mepublication date Tue May 28, 2002 09:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Good to hear that the thrumped up charges were dismissed, congrats all involved.

author by Jonathan Wildepublication date Tue May 28, 2002 10:21author email Arkaos at subdimension dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

He's a sound guy. Great news, good work.

author by Aidan O'Brienpublication date Tue May 28, 2002 11:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

he judge took his time before announcing his ruling; taking opportunity to vent his opinion, and express his attitude towards these protestors. Stating that the behavior of this people was a "direct opposite" to true democracy, which we had "witnessed in its ultimate form recently". He agreed that Rowan went to this protest with the genuine intention to document what occurred, aalbeit through a "skewed" and "biased" perspective.
--------------------------------------------------

The above paragraph is a little unclear. Perhaps the author could clarify it?

Anything in Commas is a direct quote from the Judge (sorry I haven't got my notes in front of me, I'll grab a paper and check his name) If it's the "democracy in it's ulitmate form" he's refering to the recent general election.


"Anyway, it's great that Rowan was not found guilty, but is he going to be compensated for the assault upon his freedom?"

No of course not don't be silly. Justice has been served at the expense (in time and money) of the accused.

"Was the judge concerned at the quenching effect that Gardai/thug actions like this might have upon independent media?"

Nope two IMCers were brought to the stand to testify to Gardaí behaviour towards cameraman and the Judge deemed this "irrevelant"

"Are the Gardai going to be facing prosecution for this attempt to interfere with citizens?"

What a novel and intriguing concept.......Um no

"How do they find the time to make up charges like this when they've got so many crooks in office to look after?"

Shrugs......Overtime?

"And what the hell is the judge doing confiscating a 1.5 inch blade? Is he saying that I'm not allowed to carry a 1.5 inch penknife in my pocket?"

Essentially yes. If you're caught with a blade and don't have justification for it (i.e. I use it in work) even if you have justification (a recent ruling in a Cork Circuit court decided that a carpet fitter shouldn't have been carrying a knife locked in his bag which was on his bike, because he wasn't travelling directly to or from work)

"How is a knife a "firearm"?"

Because Rowan was charged under section 9 of the firearms act, carrying a deadly weapon. A really serious charge that was added to the charge sheet; not on the night, but rather several weeks later when Rowan was first in court.

author by someonepublication date Tue May 28, 2002 18:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I still pretty much need witnesses and such for my case next september

so if anyone was there and saw a teenager getting some *baton-Justice* to the left of the Burlinton just after they arrested Rory Ahearn email me.

improvemyself@hotmail.com

thanx .

author by Aidan O'Brienpublication date Wed May 29, 2002 00:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

author by Jon Wildepublication date Wed May 29, 2002 09:28author email Arkaos at subdimension dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Like... it's not Rowan.

author by linapublication date Thu May 30, 2002 19:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

in the large photo "rowan"(its not rowan at all ,its a mate of mine) is wearing a blue shirt.in the small photo of rowan cycling off he is wearing a white shirt.

author by Jon Wildepublication date Fri May 31, 2002 12:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

apparently.

I bumped into a mutual friend recently who said that Rowan didn't want his pic taken/published.

They must have decided they so desperately needed one that they printed someone else.

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