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09 Dec 2021

Bid to adjourn Lunney verdict until after Dwyer case opinion is rejected

Bid to adjourn Lunney verdict until after Dwyer case opinion is rejected

The Special Criminal Court has rejected a defence bid to have the verdict in the trial of four men accused of abducting and assaulting Quinn Industrial Holdings executive Kevin Lunney adjourned until after an opinion in Graham Dwyer's phone data case is returned later this month.

Father-of-six Mr Lunney (51) had his leg broken, was doused in bleach and had the letters QIH carved into his chest before he was dumped on a roadside in Co Cavan in September 2019.

Today Michael O'Higgins SC, for the accused man referred to as 'YZ' for legal reasons, applied for an adjournment of the case to wait for a November 11 opinion in the Court of Justice of the European case regarding convicted murderer Graham Dwyer. Dwyer is challenging the use of mobile phone evidence in his trial.

Former architect Dwyer was given a life sentence in 2015 for the murder of childcare worker Elaine O’Hara (36), in a case that relied on telephone call data records to establish his guilt. Phone evidence was also relied upon in the case of the four accused in Mr Lunney's case.

Dwyer subsequently won a High Court challenge in 2018 over the validity of the law under which his phone data was seized.

However, the State then appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court, which in turn referred key legal questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). Dwyer's legal team is arguing that Ireland's legal system regarding the use of mobile phone data used in his conviction had minimal protections and was contrary to the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Today (Monday) at the Special Criminal Court, Michael O'Higgins SC applied for the three-judge court to adjourn their verdict, which is due next Monday, November 8.

Mr O'Higgins said that should the Special Criminal Court convict his client, there could be implications for that verdict if the CJEU opinion, or ruling, has relevance to his client. Counsel said that situation could "take years to unpick".

YZ, along with Luke O'Reilly (68), from Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan; Darren Redmond (27), from Caledon Road, East Wall, Dublin 3; and Alan O'Brien (40) of Shelmalier Road, East Wall, Dublin 1, are all charged with false imprisonment and assault causing serious harm to Mr Lunney (50) at Drumbrade, Ballinagh, Co Cavan on September 17, 2019.

All four men have pleaded not guilty to the assault and imprisonment charges at the trial which eventually got underway in June and sat for 40 days.

In December of last year the court dismissed a bid to halt the trial, which had been scheduled for 12 weeks, over the CJEU case.

Defence counsel Michael O'Higgins SC, for the unnamed man, had then argued that the law on the retention and accessing of mobile phone data was in "a state of significant uncertainty" in Ireland and that the trial should not proceed until the matter was resolved.

Mr O'Higgins said that the Dwyer case was "likely to be relevant" to his client. Representatives for the three co-accused males told the non-jury court that they were supporting Mr O'Higgins' position.

Prosecution counsel Sean Guerin SC said that the European ruling was not on a "fast track" and that it had been two years since the Supreme Court in Ireland referred it to Europe.

Mr Justice Hunt said that today's application did not do enough to justify an adjournment.

At today's hearing at the Special Criminal Court, Mr Justice Hunt, sitting with Judge David McHugh and Judge Gerard Griffin, said the court was refusing the application to adjourn the case and fixed Monday, November 8, as the date to deliver verdicts in all four men's cases.

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