An Eritrean national facing sentence for rape had to be carried screaming and kicking by prison officers across the Round Hall of the Four Courts to a cell after he was deemed too dangerous to be kept in court.

Bereket Mekonnen (aged 18), of no fixed abode, had been scheduled to appear at the Central Criminal Court in relation to a sentence date being fixed but when Ms Justice Maureen Clark arrived on the bench in Court 3, she found he had been and gone.

Mekonnen had become so aggressive that it eventually it took six prison officers to restrain him. Shortly after his handcuffs had been removed, he began shouting about the scars the handcuffs left on his wrists and two prison officers sitting on either side tried to reason with him but within seconds events escalated and he started lashing out screaming and kicking.

Four other prison officers heard the commotion and immediately entered Court 3 where Mekonnen was forcefully restrained and carried across the Round Hall and back to his waiting cell.

Ms Caroline Biggs BL, defending, told Ms Justice Clark that she had spoken to Mekonnen last Friday and she saw nothing to be concerned but she said: ‘”It seems that within 15 minutes of arriving in court he became very agitated.”

Ms Justice Clark said that she appreciated Mekonnen had “presented difficulties for the prison officers and was too dangerous to bring to court”.

Mekonnen was found guilty last February of raping a 42-year-old woman at St Stephen’s Green in August, 2005 and Ms Justice Clark directed at the last hearing that his refugee status file be produced and examined. This was with the consent of Mekonnen’s legal team, Mr Blaise O’Carroll SC (with Ms Biggs).

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Ms Justice Clark said she had now received the file from Oifig Choimisinéir Iarratais na dTeifeach and reviewed the information relating to Mekonnen’s background.

“I had thought he was a child soldier which wasn’t (NOT) the case but a medical report on his refugee application has shown physical evidence of torture.”

Ms Justice Clark previously noted that it was “a most unusual case” and said she needed to know as much as possible about the background to why Mekonnen fled Eritrea and the reasons he gave for fleeing.

She noted he had been granted refugee status in August 2005 and had asked Mekonnen’s legal team to discuss with him if he had any interest in returning to Eritrea considering he was facing the possibility of spending seven years in an Irish prison and his family might be unable to visit him here.

Ms Justice Clark said she wanted to finalise sentence before the end of term and adjourned the matter for mention later. She has also previously directed that Mekonnen be registered as a sex offender.

The jury reached its 10-1 majority guilty verdict last February following some six hours deliberation and after spending one night in a hotel. A large portion of the case was taken up with legal argument in the absence of the jury.

Mekonnen met the victim in a late-night disco-bar where she was in an intoxicated state. She drank some of his wine there before leaving for home and he raped her while she was on her way.

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