Protester is fined €300 after scaling RTE studio fence
a POLITICAL activist arrested for trespassing at the grounds of RTE studios has avoided a jail sentence, but was fined €300.
About fifty protesters from various groups had turned up at the gates of the national broadcaster in Donnybrook to protest about alleged "media bias".
Gardai believed some of them intended to disrupt broadcasting of the nine o'clock news or The Late Late Show, Dublin District Court heard.
Stephen Bennett (42), of Pearse Green Sallynoggin, Co Dublin, was found guilty yesterday of trespassing with intent to commit an offence, on the night of January 31 last. He had denied the charge claiming he was engaging in a peaceful protest at RTE.
Garda Martin Folan told Judge Bryan Smyth that a large barrier was erected at the main gates to stop unauthorised people getting into the grounds of RTE. At about 8.30pm some protesters tried to pull it down and there was a minor scuffle.
When they failed they walked along the perimeter fence and Bennett jumped into the grounds of RTE and stumbled onto his knees, Gda Folan said
He also said Bennett resisted as handcuffs were placed on him and the protester was then put in a van before being taken to Donnybrook Garda Station.
In cross-examination he agreed that Bennett, who defended himself in the trial, had not been arrested for pulling at the barrier. Gda Folan said he didn't recall Bennett kneeling or holding a placard when arrested.
He also denied that Bennett was first told why he was arrested after he had been handcuffed and placed in a Garda van.
Gda Inspector Martin McGonnell said the protest involved 40-50 people from a number of disparate groups. Gda Insp McGonnell said he believed it became obvious they were trying to "disrupt the 9pm news or The Late Late Show".
He said the group with Bennett were cautioned not to enter the premises and they moved down the N11 where the accused "launched himself over the wall". After his arrest other protesters began to block the N11.
When asked if there was a law against interfering with a live broadcast, Inspector McGonnell said the accused was charged with trespassing with intent to commit an offence.
He has known Bennett for several years for his involvement in protests at the Israeli embassy. He said he believed the accused intended to commit a criminal damage offence.
Bennett, an unemployed father-of-one, told the court that he was using his constitutional rights to protest peacefully and engage in freedom of expression.
He also asked the judge to note that no other charges to suggest he had acted violently had been brought against him, however, Judge Smyth said he was satisfied the State had proven its case.
Judge Smyth said the fine had to be paid within six months or the defendant would be jailed for five days in default.