Monday 24 October 2016

Dad and daughter avoid jail for embassy protest

DUBLIN DIStrict court

Saoirse and Stephen Bennett
Saoirse and Stephen Bennett

A FATHER and daughter have been given suspended sentences following a political protest in which they lay down in front of the Israeli ambassador's car, preventing him from driving into the embassy in Dublin.

Activists Stephen and Saoirse Bennett were found guilty of obstructing the car and public order offences.

They had denied all charges, insisting they had a constitutional right to protest.

The defendants, both of Pearse Green, Sallynoggin, were charged with wilfully preventing the passage of a vehicle and failing to obey garda directions.

Stephen Bennett (43) was also charged with resisting arrest at Pembroke Road, Dublin 4, last July 8.

Finding them guilty, Judge Ann Ryan said their actions were wrongful and not protected by the Constitution.

Stephen Bennett was given a five-month sentence while his 21-year-old daughter was given three months, both suspended for a year.

The ambassador's car had arrived at 9am and he was unable to gain entry to the embassy.

Judge Ryan said safety was paramount.

While the duration was short, she said that was "only because the gardai intervened".

The protest was on a public road in rush hour.

The gardai acted in a manner that was moderate and proportionate, the accused both had time to comply and Stephen Bennett's arrest was lawful, she found.

Stephen Bennett had 15 previous convictions.

He had dedicated himself to political activism and was not otherwise working.

His daughter had 10 prior convictions, had studied journalism and was now expecting a baby.

Recognisances were set in the event of an appeal.

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