TWO students who were charged with organising a large house party in breach of Covid regulations had their charges dismissed over doubts about who organised the event. More than 70 people had attended the party at a student house in Southern Gardens, Kilkenny Road, Carlow on 10 December 2020.
The two third-year students, residents of the house, had denied organising an event contrary to ***The Health Act*** and gave evidence of trying to stop it. A sitting of Carlow District Court heard the pair had already received suspensions at IT Carlow following a hearing into the matter.
Dismissing the charges, Judge Cephas Power said the state’s evidence had not ruled out the possibility that another resident in the house had organised the event.
The court was told that gardaí responded to an anonymous call about a large house party taking place in Southern Gardens, Kilkenny Road, Carlow. It was around 1.25am and gardaí arrived to see three people outside the property and loud music blaring. Gardaí knocked on the front door but got no answer. Gardaí then went to the front window and saw around 30 people in a room.
“They were standing on chairs, tables; some were on each other’s shoulders,” said the prosecuting garda.
The garda went around a side entrance and knocked on the door, but again there was no answer. He observed a group of about ten people at the back of the house who were holding alcohol and trying to hide. The garda said he spotted another group of around 30 people in the kitchen, who were “attempting to hide their identity”.
One of the group shouted out to tell people to “shut up”. The garda knocked on a patio door, in full view of the group, but no-one made an effort to open the door. The garda was eventually let into the house after three or four minutes. He recounted seeing ten people in a hallway, 20 people in the sitting room and 30 people in the kitchen. A further ten to 15 people were upstairs.
The court was told that two male residents of the house had locked themselves in their bedrooms. It would later transpire that the individuals had been studying that night and had nothing to do with the party.
Gardaí were speaking to these two males when the two defendants approached him and said they were resident in the student house.
“They had invited a small number of friends after the pubs had closed,” said the garda. “But then people kept coming back and they lost control over the number of people in the property.”
Defending solicitor Joe Farrell put it to the garda that another person in the house had invited people back to the house. “It’s a possibility,” said said the garda. “I did not speak to anyone else. No-one else approached me.”
The court was told that following the house party, the names of the two women had been passed to IT Carlow. The pair had been suspended from college following a hearing and directed to write letters of apology, including to the chief superintendent. It was noted that neither defendant explicitly apologised for organising the event in their letters.
Both defendants gave evidence denying inviting anyone back to their house. The pair recalled coming back to the house around 8.30pm with another housemate. However, a large crowd soon started to gather at the house at around 9pm.
“We did not invite any of them back,” said one of the defendant. She said she did not know 99% of the people there. The defendant added she turned off the music on three occasions, only for someone to turn it back on. She was also told to ‘f–k off’ at one stage.
“No-one wanted to listen. No-one cared what might happen,”
Both women denied saying to garda that they had organised the party.
The had approached the garda as the two male residents had not even been out socialising that night.
Judge Power outlined that he had to be satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that the offence had been committed or “exclude the reasonable possibility the accused did not organise the event”.
Judge Power said it was not clear what the defendants “took responsibility” for when they approached gardaí. He said it was “more likely than not” that the defendants had some knowledge of the party, although he did not think they had invited 70 people back to the house.
The judge said the state’s evidence did not rule out the possibly that another individual had organised the event and he was satisfied to dismiss.
Full story in this week’s paper