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Simeon Burke
Enoch Burke

Simeon Burke spared jail and fined €300 over Court of Appeal melee

The younger brother of sacked teacher Enoch Burke had refused to take up bail since his arrest last month.

LAW STUDENT SIMEON Burke has been convicted and fined €300 over a “volatile” breach of the peace following a “melee” at his brother Enoch’s case in the Four Courts in Dublin.

The younger brother of sacked teacher Enoch Burke had refused to take up bail since his arrest on March 7.

Burke, 24, repeatedly refused to sign a bail bond with a condition stay away from the Four Courts, where his brother was involved in a legal dispute before the Court of Appeal over his sacking by Wilson’s Hospital School in Co Westmeath.

Simeon Burke, a Kings Inns barrister at law student, remained in prison custody on remand.

After failed attempts to halt the prosecution, his trial before Judge John Hughes at Dublin District Court concluded late Monday evening.

Burke, with an address at Cloonsunna, Castlebar, Co Mayo, denied the Public Order Act offence of engaging in threatening, insulting and abusive words and behaviour on or about the Four Courts, Inns Quay, on March 7. The offence carries a possible three-month sentence

The contested hearing featured CCTV evidence from the Four Courts, but not from inside the courtroom where the incident started before spilling out to the yard and him being dragged by gardaí to the front of the building and onto Inns Quay and his arrest.

Five gardaí gave evidence.

Bridewell Garda Sergeant Brian Griffin said he received a call for assistance and went over to the court at about 3 pm. He saw the accused had been brought out onto Inns Quay by gardaí with his left wrist handcuffed.

He said gardaí were attempting to effect his arrest.

Sergeant Griffin said Mr Burke was “shouting and screaming, largely unintelligible insults” in regards to transgender issues and that “garda members should be ashamed of it, and there was a comment about going to Tallaght to deal with proper criminals”.

Sergeant Griffin said gardaí tried to reason with the accused, and the sergeant said he tried to calm the situation and ensure the arrest was done effectively.

The sergeant said he pointed out to Mr Burke had his glasses in his hand and was squeezing them, and he feared they would break, but “he was not listening to me”.

There was a “physical struggle” before he was put in a garda van.

He said it was a “volatile situation”, and his attention was drawn to others shouting insults about transgender issues. Sergeant Griffin said he approached and cautioned them under the Public Order Act to leave the vicinity.

Witnesses alleged that Burke gripped and grabbed benches in the courtroom, latched onto the door and put his feet against the wall as he was taken out.

Mr Burke was the sole witness for the defence. He also represented himself, assisted by Ammi Burke, a trained solicitor, acting as a McKenzie Friend.

He frequently referred to himself in the third person as he cross-examined witnesses and accused them of lies.

Court Garda Michael McGrath said the accused shouted and acted aggressively in the CoA, and the judges left the courtroom due to interruptions and objections by the Burke family.

Garda McGrath said Simeon Burke gripped furniture and “pushed his feet into the floor”. He disagreed with the accused that the court’s business had ended and said it did not get to complete its business.

Garda Thomas Byrne said the accused was determined not to leave the courtroom, and there was high-pitched screaming.

Arresting Garda Conor O’Dwyer said the accused kicked out and commented about transgender issues. He described his behaviour as appalling and rejected Burke’s version that he was never told the reason for the arrest.

Garda O’Dwyer told Judge Hughes it was explained to the accused when he was led to a garda van which brought him to the Bridewell Station.

Garda Loughlin McHugh also told the court Burke had been told the grounds for his arrest and that he was handed a charge sheet in the Bridewell station, which the law student disputed.

State solicitor Declan Keating submitted that it was the State’s case that there was a melee in the courtroom first.

A school group was visiting the court at the outset of the incident.

In his evidence, Burke insisted he was not lawfully arrested.

He claimed he was left in shock, his shirt was ripped, and he needed medical attention afterwards in custody.

He told the court that he had said there was freedom in Ireland and the country did not have to accept transgender issues. He admitted that he did not comply with gardaí and pushed one officer but claimed he had not been told to leave.

He told the court he was in fear for his mother, who was frightened when the judges of the CoA rose, and gardaí entered. He alleged that one officer grabbed his sister Ammi.

He also said his brother Enoch, who was not present for the hearing on Monday, was injured.

Simeon Burke denied claims he was shouting or screaming.

After delivering the guilty verdict, Judge Hughes reminded him that contesting the case meant the court could not give him the same credit as a defendant who pleaded guilty.

He had no criminal conviction and begged the court to be spared a record outlining his accomplishments, including a President’s award, a law scholarship, and work with an international organisation helping disabled children.

He also told the court he taught music to young people but could not say how much he earned.

“I am a responsible citizen; I have been brought up to be a dutiful member of society. I beg this court to leave me without a conviction,” he implored the court.

Judge Hughes noted the time he had spent in custody, having refused to take up bail, and offered him the opportunity of an adjournment to engage with the Probation Service.

At that stage, following a conference with family members, Burke demanded a strike out and claimed prosecution witnesses had committed perjury.

Finalising the case, Judge Hughes remarked that law and order must be maintained in the courts of all places. He said the use of force was an aggravating factor, and he noted how the incident continued into the yard of the Four Courts.

He recorded a conviction, imposed the fine to be paid in six months and set recognisance at €200 in case of an appeal.