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Evidence of two gardaí to be kept in Hutch trial, despite objection

The court heard there was no evidence the detectives were together when they made the identification.

The Regency Hotel where David Byrne was shot dead.
The Regency Hotel where David Byrne was shot dead.
Image: Sasko Lazarov via RollingNews.ie

JUDGES AT THE Special Criminal Court trial of Patrick Hutch, who is accused of the murder of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel almost two years ago, have ruled that key prosecution evidence identifying the accused is admissible.

The defence had objected to evidence that two detectives, Fergal O’Flaherty and Jonathan Brady, “immediately recognised” Hutch as a man dressed as a woman and holding a gun in a photo that had been taken outside the hotel on the day of the fatal shooting there.

However, ruling on the evidence this morning Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding at the three-judge court, said there was no evidence the detectives were together when they made the identification and that the process was therefore contaminated.

Hutch (25) of Champions Avenue, Dublin 1, is pleading not guilty to the murder of David Byrne (34) at the Regency Hotel in Dublin on 5 February 2016.

He also denies possessing three AK47 assault rifles in connection with the shooting.

It is the prosecution’s case that Hutch was the man dressed as a woman and that he did not shoot Byrne but was part of a “shared intention” to commit the offence.

The court has heard that the shooting took place during a boxing weigh-in at the hotel when the man dressed as a woman and another wearing a flat cap, armed with handguns, raided the venue.

The court also heard that they were followed by three people dressed in tactical-style garda uniforms and carrying assault rifles.

Identification

Last week, during five days of legal argument, Michael O’Higgins SC, for Hutch, had argued that the circumstances in which the detectives identified his client were “sullied and tainted”.

Justice Hunt said today that the court was “simply concerned” with the issue of admissibility of the evidence and that matters of weight were “irrelevant”.

He noted that the “nub of the evidential issue” in the case was whether or not the detectives had made their identifications separately.

Previously, Detectives O’Flaherty and Brady have told the court that two days after the shooting they went to Ballymun Garda Station to look at the photo.

The court has heard that Sergeant Patrick O’Toole supervised the process while Garda Michael Ryan displayed the image on a computer in his office.

Garda O’Flaherty has testified that he looked at the picture on a monitor and “immediately recognised” one of the people as Patrick Hutch but did not say the name.

He has said that he then left the office and in the corridor spoke to Sergeant Patrick O’Toole, telling him one of the men in the photo was Patrick Hutch.

Garda Brady has said that after his colleague had left the office he looked at the photo and recognised Patrick Hutch.

Not to be excluded

The defence had argued that when Garda O’Flaherty looked at the photo he said to his colleague, “I’ll let you take a look,” and that when Garda Brady looked at the photo he said he knew who the person was and said the name Patrick Hutch and Garda O’Flaherty agreed.

Justice Hunt said today the court was satisfied that the “initial lack of separation” of the two detectives was due to the “low level of expectation” there would be a result rather than “some form of conspiracy”.

The court was satisfied that Garda O’Flaherty “accurately described” the events, the judge said.

He added that there was “no reason to think that Garda O’Flaherty blurted out the name of Mr Hutch in the room”.

The defence had also argued that the evidence of Garda Ryan, who had showed the photos, may have been influenced by press coverage of the trial.

Mr Justice Hunt said the court did not accept that Garda Ryan had exaggerated or fabricated his account or that he had “augmented his recollection with media reports”.

The judge said there was no evidence that the identifications had been contaminated by either of the detectives saying the accused man’s name while in the office.

He also said that there was “no evidence for the existence of a conspiracy to cover up a flawed process”.

The judge said that the recognitions had “not crossed the border into territory where they were so contaminated as to be excluded”.

The trial has been adjourned until Monday afternoon.

Read: Did you see the car believed to be used in Derek Coakley Hutch’s murder?>

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Daniel Hickey

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