A judge has told remand prisoner Simeon Burke that he is in custody voluntarily but could be released with “one flick of a pen” and his signature on a bail bond.
The accused, a younger brother of secondary schoolteacher Enoch Burke, has pleaded not guilty to a breach of the peace in connection with outbursts in the Court of Appeal (CoA) on March 7th.
Simeon Burke (24) a barrister-at-law Kings Inn student, has remained in custody since.
He has adamantly refused to sign a bail bond with a condition stay away from the Four Courts, where his brother is at the centre of an ongoing legal dispute over his employment at 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 CoA. The offence carries a possible three-month custodial sentence.
He indicated he was pleading not guilty on Wednesday when the prosecution made minor amendments to the location of the incident.
The case resumed at Dublin District Court on Wednesday to set a date for his contested hearing. The student has complained that he has missed exams, wants a speedy trial, and claims his arrest and detention were unlawful.
Simeon, with an address at Cloonsunna, Castlebar, Co Mayo, could have faced his procedural hearing via video link but opted to appear in person. Judge John Hughes scheduled the contested hearing to take place on April 17th.
He was supported in court by his parents, sister, Ammi, and brother, Isaac.
Ammi Burke, a qualified solicitor, stood beside him and was described by Simeon as his legal assistant.
The judge told him he might be entitled to legal aid and the court could appoint a lawyer, but he declined and said he was representing himself.
The judge asked if she was acting as “McKenzie Friend”, where a defendant, without a lawyer, is allowed an assistant to help them conduct their defence. Simeon said that he was representing himself.
During exchanges with Simeon, Judge Hughes told Ammi not to speak to him and told her to leave the dock area because she had “no status” in the proceedings.
Judge Hughes noted the hearing would last two hours, and the prosecution intended to call five witnesses. Simeon Burke said he would have “a number of witnesses”, video footage and photographic evidence.
He argued about the amended charge, saying it affected the case, and again brought up his claim that his arrest was unlawful and that he was not given the factual basis.
Judge Hughes noted he had not taken up bail and remarked that he remains in custody “albeit on an entirely voluntary basis”. However, he added that he was trying to give him an early hearing date.
Simeon Burke took issue with the description of being in prison voluntarily.
However, Judge Hughes said, “I’m not going to delve into the reason why you have not signed the bail bond and remain in custody”.
He stressed that the court endeavoured to prioritise cases of people in custody who have been refused bail but still have the presumption of innocence or cases involving domestic abuse, assaults on children, robberies, and victim impact statements. They were “vying for the court’s precious resources,” he told Mr Burke.
He said that his refusal to sign the bond was the only thing holding him. “It is entirely of your own making; you are in custody in circumstances where with one flick of a pen, you could walk out,” he said.
The case will be listed for mention on April 12th to confirm the hearing will proceed.
Since his arrest, Mr Burke has claimed gardaí lied, fabricated evidence and that he was innocent.
“We are not in North Korea, judge, where you can be thrown in a cell and not be told what you have done,” he said at a previous hearing on Tuesday.