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Paul Murphy says charges of false imprisonment are "absolutely farcical". Are they?

Do the charges stack up?

Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

ANTI-AUSTERITY ALLIANCE TD Paul Murphy yesterday described potential charges of false imprisonment against him as “absolutely farcical”.

It comes following reports that he and others, who were involved in a protest that saw Joan Burton trapped in her car for over two hours, are to face a number of charges.

Speaking on to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland yesterday, Murphy strongly rejected that what happened constituted false imprisonment.

“It stretches the definition of false imprisonment beyond breaking point to suggest that because the Tánaiste was delayed in Jobstown in her car for two-and-a-half hours, that that’s false imprisonment,” he said.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Murphy said, “It will be up to a jury to decide if the facts stand up to a false imprisonment charge. I don’t think they do.”

Burton and her advisor Karen O’Connell had been held in their car for over two hours as protesters surrounded the vehicle and staged a sit-down protest.

The Tánaiste was switched to a garda vehicle as she eventually made her exit, following negotiations between protesters and officers.

The Tánaiste had earlier been hit by a water balloon and was verbally abused.

A number of days after the incident she said that she was, “concerned  if the [car] doors were opened what would happen next.”

joan Source: Youtube

What is false imprisonment?

Under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, an individual is guilty of the offence if they either intentionally or recklessly cause another person to be detained or restrict their personal liberty.

It can carry a sentence of up to life imprisonment.

According to legal text Criminal Law in Ireland, the restriction of an individual’s personal liberty must must be completed in every direction but can be defined as “momentary”.

The text advises that, in cases of false imprisonment, a person need not have originally imprisoned the individual to be guilty of that crime. It has been shown that they may be considered guilty of that offence if they continued a wrongful detention.

In a civil case, solicitor Liam Moloney told TheJournal.ie that “the preferred view seems to be the means of escape must be seen to be dangerous”.

A civil case of false imprisonment falls under Tort Law with the case of Sayers v Harlow indicating that it may have occurred when the means of escape for the individual is seen to be “unreasonable”. 

In the Jobstown incident, Moloney says that if the Tánaiste were to take a civil case, a possible defence may be that gardaí could lawfully have taken action to remove the protesters.

There is no indication that there is a civil case being considered in the matter with the Tánaiste making no comment since news of the expected charges broke on Wednesday evening.

Read: Joan Burton will be a key witness in the Jobstown trial >

Read: ‘Jobstown was one of the most traumatic things I’ve ever experienced as a politician’ >

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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