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simeon burke

High Court judge directs inquiry into legality of Simeon Burke's ongoing imprisonment

The Judge said that sufficient evidence has been raised to merit an inquiry.

A HIGH COURT Judge has today ruled that there should be an inquiry into the legality of Simeon Burke’s ongoing detention at Cloverhill Prison.

Justice Antony Barr said that sufficient evidence had been raised regarding the 24-year-old Co Mayo man’s imprisonment that merited the court directing an inquiry under Article 40.4 of the constitution.

Justice Barr gave his decision following an ex-parte application brought this afternoon by Burke’s sister Ammi Burke on behalf of her brother who is currently detained at the prison, on foot of an alleged breach of the peace following an incident at the Court of Appeal last month.

The judge said that Burke has raised issues concerning the lawfulness of both his arrest and treatment at the hands of the Gardai, and ongoing detention.

He also made complaints about the District Court’s handling of his case.

He further claims that the breach of his constitutional rights is so egregious that the District Court lacks the jurisdiction to hear the case against him.

While there were clearly “two sides to the story”, the judge said that an inquiry into Burke’s imprisonment, where both sides can make submissions on the legality of the detention, was merited.

The inquiry will take place before the duty judge at the Four Courts during Thursday’s vacation sitting of the court.

As part of his inquiry Burke seeks an order from the court directing his immediate release from Cloverhill.

Justice Barr’s decision comes after two other High Court judges Justice Mark Heslin and Justice Melanie Greally who ruled against directing inquiries into Simeon Burke’s detention.

In her submissions to Justice Barr today, Ammi Burke strongly criticised the other judge’s refusal to entertain the applications, and rejected Justice Greally’s contention that she was “forum shopping”.

She said that it was a matter of “basic law” that a third party can seek an article 40 inquiry on a prisoner’s behalf.

She also argued that multiple applications for such an inquiry can be made before the courts in respect of the same person.

In his ruling Justice Barr said he was not making any comments in relation to any decisions made by other judges of the High Court.

However, he was satisfied that Ammi Burke did have the legal standing to apply for an inquiry.

The judge said that the courts have always “erred on the side of caution” when it comes to applications under Article 40.4 regarding a person’s liberty, the threshold for directing such inquiries was “low”.

He added the fact that Burke’s trial on the public order charge is due to take place early next week and his refusal to take up bail were not matters that prohibit the courts from directing an inquiry.

Simeon Burke, who the High Court will represent himself in the inquiry, has been remanded in custody since his arrest over a month ago with consent to bail, which he has declined to take up.

The accused, a younger brother of secondary school teacher Enoch Burke, has pleaded not guilty to a breach of the peace offence in connection with outbursts in the Court of Appeal on 7 March last.

Simeon Burke who is a student barrister-at-law at the Kings Inns has refused to sign a bail bond with a condition to stay away from the Four Courts, where his brother has been involved in a lengthy and high profile legal dispute with Wilson’s Hospital School in Co Westmeath.

Simeon Burke is charged with a breach of the peace, under the Public Order Act, for engaging in threatening, insulting and abusive words and behaviour at the Court of Appeal.

The offence carries a possible three-month custodial sentence.

Simeon Burke, with an address at Cloonsunna, Castlebar, Co Mayo, denies the charges and the contested hearing is due to take place before the District Court on 17 April.

Comments closed as legal proceedings are ongoing.

Aodhan O Faolain