Trial on the adbuction and abuse of Kevin Lunney
The Special Criminal Court trial of four men accused of falsely imprisoning Quinn Industrial Holdings executive Kevin Lunney has been delayed as lawyers prepare legal arguments in advance of the trial opening.
Sean Guerin SC for the Director of Public Prosecutions today (MON) told the three-judge, non-jury court that a matter of law must be dealt with before the trial can go ahead. Michael O'Higgins SC, for one of the four accused, will bring an application before the court tomorrow (TUE) relating to "jurisdictional matters". Mr Guerin said the argument will take about one day. The court has already dismissed applications brought in recent months to postpone the trial on various grounds.
Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge David McHugh, adjourned the hearing. The four men have not yet been arraigned.
Luke O’Reilly (67), with an address at Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan; Darren Redmond (27), from Caledon Road, East Wall, Dublin 3; Alan O’Brien (40), of Shelmalier Road, East Wall, Dublin 3 and a fourth accused man aged 40 are all charged with false imprisonment and causing serious harm to Mr Lunney at Drumbrade, Ballinagh, Co Cavan on September 17, 2019. The fourth man cannot be named by order of the court as he is due to face trial on other, unrelated matters.
Mr Lunney (51), a father of six, was abducted close to his home in Co Fermanagh on the evening of September 17. The businessman's leg was broken, he was doused in bleach and the letters QIH were carved into his chest during the two-and-a-half hour ordeal before he was dumped on a roadside in Co Cavan.
During previous hearings Mr O'Higgins, for the unnamed man, said the law on the retention and accessing of mobile phone data is in "a state of significant uncertainty" in Ireland and the trial should therefore not proceed. The Court of Justice of the European Union is currently considering the legality of methods of retention of mobile phone data.
Outlining the reasons for the court's ruling on this ground, Mr Justice Hunt said the Special Criminal Court did not perceive "sufficient flux and sufficient uncertainty" to justify an adjournment of the trial and it was up to the domestic courts to come to an assessment of the legality or otherwise of the retention of phone data. "No guidance is going to come in the short term in relation to these matters," he added.
Another reason put forward by Mr O'Higgins was that High Court challenges have been brought by the defendants against the Special Criminal Court's jurisdiction to try the matter.
In relation to this, Mr Justice Hunt said that a significant fact was that "no stay" had emanated from the High Court and there was no legal impediment to hear the trial and therefore no basis for adjourning it on this ground.
Finally, Mr O'Higgins had submitted that there was important DNA evidence found on an abandoned Renault Kangoo van, used in the alleged abduction of Mr Lunney, which went on fire from an electrical fault whilst in the possession of gardai. He noted that the garda ombudsman was carrying out an investigation into the fire and it did not seem unreasonable to wait for the outcome.
Mr Justice Hunt said the result of the fire was "immutable" and could not be changed and sufficient basis had not been put forward on this ground for the case to be adjourned. "What has happened has happened and whatever the consequences, that will have will have to be worked out at the trial," he said. DNA, he said, was produced in court in many cases, not the place where the DNA was discovered.
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