From top: Claire Byrne and Jason Lester; Jason
Yesterday, Jason ‘Jay’ Lester won his appeal against falsely imprisoning Joan Burton and her advisor in Jobstown, Tallaght, three years ago after lawyers for the State said they would not be contesting the case.
Jason, of Brookview Close in Tallaght, was 15 when he was charged.
Last night, he spoke to Claire Byrne on RTÉ 1’s Claire Byrne Live.
Claire Byrne: “Jason first of all how do you feel tonight after that verdict today?”
Jason Lester: “Extremely happy. Relieved that it’s all over. Three years. It’s been a very long three years. So tonight I suppose I’m feeling a lot better than I have been over the past few years. Extremely relieved and happy. Really really happy.”
Byrne: “What was that moment like today in court when you knew finally that this was over?”
Lester: “Yeah when everything became official in court I was sitting with my mam. I looked at her, and the two of us, you know, it was sudden relief. You know when we were just… 30 seconds… after three years, 30 seconds of the judge speaking, it was all over. The DPP said they weren’t going to contest it. It was amazing the feeling, you know, it was a serious relief.”
Byrne: “When all this started at the time the protest, you were only fifteen.You’re a young man now. You were a child at that time. So this has been going on right through your late teens.”
Lester: “That’s right, yeah. Through the Leaving Cert as well, it was all going on.”
Byrne: “What was that like. What was the impact on you and your life over the last three plus years?”
Lester: “Certainly a negative impact. So I was sick in hospital with stress twice throughout the trial. I was constantly feeling down in myself. My mental health as well, I was really hit by it. You know it is a hard thing to go through the court process at such a young age, in and out of court hearings all the time. It was really hard you know it wasn’t easy. For sure it wasn’t easy at all.”
Byrne: “What was difficult about the court process for you then?”
Lester: “It was a really intimidating thing to be brought before a court. You know it’s really serious you have a judge, you have legal argument and such serious charges which were brought against me, you know, really frightening if anything.”
Byrne: “In the case, you were convicted of false imprisonment. But you were discharged conditionally, on good behaviour for nine months so that you wouldn’t have a criminal record. What made you decide to contest that when you weren’t going to have a criminal record at the end of it?”
Lester: “I suppose it wasn’t about waiting for the nine months or anything like that. It was suddenly, straight away, the day we got the verdict I spoke to the legal team and said, you know, I want to go for an appeal here. I felt I was failed by the justice system and the legal system in the country. I didn’t feel that justice was done. You know, I was found guilty. It’s proven now I was found guilty on evidence that adults weren’t proven guilty on in the adult court, you know. So initially it was my idea to speak to the legal team, get an appeal in, and get the conviction overturned. And I think the position we’re in today kind of proves it was the right decision to do.”
Byrne: “It took guts to challenge the system and to stick with it.”
Lester: “Yeah, it did. But, again I’m really happy that was what I done. You know, I think if you’re not happy with something you have to speak up about. And that’s what I done.”
Byrne: “Can we go back to the day of the protest because lots of people watching this will have seen the pictures from that time. It was a lengthy protest, it was a loud protest, it was a difficult situation for everybody. It looked very tense. What was it like being there being in the middle of it? What was it like for you?
Lester: “Yes for me partaking in it, I was taking part in the political protest on the day. Peaceful to myself definitely. slow marching, chanting slogans and holding a megaphone and a banner. And these are some of the points that I was actually convicted on. I stood in front of Joan Burton for three seconds that was a momentary stoppage as such if you like. And that begs the question then in the court case, does a momentary stoppage lead to false imprisonment?
But on the day I took part in a peaceful protest, I slow marched, and you know, there was talk about people throwing things, but I was one of the people, and this was said in the court and evidence to show, I was one of the people that encouraged people on the sideline who weren’t part of the protest to stop throwing things, and the judge did thank me for that as well, you know.”
Byrne: “We know that things were thrown on that day.”
Lester: “That’s right. And you know the protesters weren’t happy about that. It’s important that we know, the people that were throwing those things weren’t involved in the protest and the protesters were encouraging those people to stop. Because we were there for a political protest. You know, those people possibly weren’t. And we encouraged them to stop, and evidence was shown of that, and the judge even thanked me for that.”
Byrne: We’ve talked about how this impacted you, and the long process through the court system and all of the rest. Would you do it again if you were back in that situation?
Lester: “If there was a political protest tomorrow, I’d certainly take part in a protest tomorrow if there was one. Be it of the homeless issue, the health crisis that we have in the country at the minute, or if it was on water charges. I’d certainly take part in the protest again tomorrow.”
Byrne: “So you see yourself as an activist, as a political activist?”
Lester: “Yeah I would classify myself as an activist, I took part in Apollo House last Christmas which was a great experience to take part in, also you know.”
Byrne: “Moving on from the day of the protest to the day of your arrest. Tell us what happened that day.”
Lester: “That morning I was getting ready to go to school. I came back into my bedroom after getting ready, and there was suddenly a loud bang on the door. I looked out the window to find I think it was 10 to 11 guards in the front garden of the house. Next thing I knew there was two of them in my bedroom, telling me you know they were here to arrest me for the charge of false imprisonment of the Tánaiste of the country, Joan Burton and her advisor Karen O’Connell.
Extremely shocked at that point. Frightened, definitely. They asked me did I understand what they were arresting me for. I said no I don’t. Can you explain it again and they said well we just did. So that was it. I was under arrest so to speak, being charged brought to the station in a separate car than my mam, three guards, very intimidating, the whole situation the way it’s done. Brought down to the station, put in a the cell for two and a half hours then brought out to have your fingerprints taken your pictures, treated like a top class criminal really. Then the interview process that lasted over two hours again. It was a totally discomforting scenario to be in. Certainly not one I enjoyed.”
Byrne: “Now you’ve had your result today and you say you’re relieved that you’re at the end of this process, but for you, more needs to happen?”
Lester: “Yeah, I’d like to see a public inquiry go on, and to see, you know, things explained a bit more as to what went on. You know, how evidence was given in the Children’s Court and the same evidence was allowed be given in the adult’s court, and the evidence in the adult’s court wasn’t contested whereas it was in the children’s court. The DPP didn’t accept the facts in the Children’s Court but when the same facts were put before him and the adult’s court they were accepted. So I think there needs to be some type of an investigation into what actually went on, the policing of this whole investigation so to speak, and the trial process.”
Byrne: “So you’ve questions for the policing system and for the legal system?”
Byrne: “And you think a public inquiry is the only way to have those answered for you?”
Lester: “I believe it can contribute towards getting those answers.”
Byrne: “And who do you make that call to?”
Lester: “I suppose you could speak to your local representatives. That’s what they’re elected for, to be your voice in government. You know and if we lobby them enough, we might just get that.”
Byrne: “Where does your life go from here, Jason?”
Lester: “At the moment I’m in a full time job. Politics is a part-time thing so to speak. But, you know I’d never rule anything out. Anything is possible. I could be in your chair in a few years, who knows?”
Watch in full here
Yesterday: No Contest
Thanks Laura Fitzgerald
All remaining charges dropped against #JobstownNotGuilty
— Newsworthy_ie (@newsworthy_ie) September 20, 2017