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James Quinn jailed for 22 years in Spain for Gary Hutch murder

The judge described the 2015 murder as “execrable”.

A view of the court building in Malaga, Spain.
A view of the court building in Malaga, Spain.
Image: PA Archive/PA Images

THE IRISH MAN who sparked a deadly gangland feud with the murder of Gary Hutch has been jailed for 22 years.

James Quinn, 35, was warned last Friday after he was convicted by a jury of murdering Hutch that he faced a prison sentence of 28 years – 25 for the murder and three for a gun crime.

But a Spanish judge today handed him a sentence totalling six years less than the punishment state prosecutors demanded after he was found guilty of murder and illegal weapons possession at a court in Malaga.

Prosecutor Jose Barba had accused Quinn at the start of his trial of being the gunman who shot Hutch in the head after chasing him around the gated estate where he lived in Miraflores near the Costa del Sol resort of Fuengirola.

But he later gave the jury the option of convicting him of murder over the 24 September 2015 killing as only the getaway driver and lookout.

Jurors took that option – ruling Quinn was guilty because he had been a “necessary participant.”

Judge Ernesto Carlos Manzano said in a 15 page written document he was sentencing him to 20 years and not more because among other things he had a clean record in Spain and was not the shooter.

whatsapp-image-2018-06-15-at-20-49-35-310x415 The arrest of James Quinn in the south of Spain. Source: Garda Press Office

He described the murder as “execrable” and said Quinn and the unidentified gunman deserved “deep social reprobation”.

But he added: “Other circumstances need to be taken into account in terms of the crime and the man convicted of it such as the fact he had no previous convictions in Spain and he has not been convicted as the direct material author of the crime.”

He said of the gun conviction, which related to a weapon found in a bedside table during a search of Quinn’s home and not the two guns recovered from the getaway BMW used by Hutch’s killers:

“It is appropriate to impose the minimum two years under Spanish law for the crime.

That is because of the guilty man’s personal circumstances which are that he had a got a clean criminal record in Spain, and because the jury, in this case, has limited the weapons crime exclusively to the gun found in his home with the series number erased.

The judge also ordered Quinn to pay the court costs and Hutch’s relatives €90,000 compensation.

He said the amount of prison remand time the Irish man served before his conviction – nearly two years since his arrest – should be taken into account in determining how long he spends in prison.

Quinn’s defence lawyers are expected to appeal as soon as they have read through the sentencing document and spoken to their client.

DNA

Quinn was arrested in September 2016 after undercover police got his DNA from a water bottle he had drunk from in a Madrid train station and discovered it matched the DNA they had from a  baseball cap they found in the getaway BMW Hutch’s killers tried to torch after dumping it near the murder scene.

Five other people were held over the Hutch killing – widely regarded as sparking the ongoing feud between the Kinahans and Hutches which has claimed at least 15 lives – but only Quinn was charged.

He broke a near-two-silence over the murder to insist at the start of his trial last Monday he was in bed with a post-wedding hangover and a sex worker when Hutch, nephew of Gerry ‘the Monk’ Hutch, was killed.

He failed to provide an alibi and the state prosecutor described his claims in court as a “collection of the outlandish”, pointing out there were no payslips or known employment to justify his high life of upmarket cars and expensive rental homes.

Barba told jurors before they retired to consider their verdict:

I think if James Quinn ever admitted to regretting anything it wouldn’t be the murder of Gary Hutch but the fact he didn’t destroy the now famous baseball cap which has ended up certifying his involvement in the killing.

Jurors ruled it had been proven the Irish man acted as a getaway driver and lookout for a pre-planned murder he was in on and said his participation had been necessary for the crime to be successfully pulled off.

But they said they could not conclude he was the man who chased 34-year-old Hutch round the swimming pool of his gated estate in Miraflores near Fuengirola before shooting him dead because, among other things, his face could not be identified on CCTV cameras showing the crime.

The state prosecutor had offered jurors the possibility of considering Quinn was the getaway driver and not the gunman in a last-minute ‘option B’ indictment he handed them on day three of the trial.

He told the court trying Quinn that he was still seeking a murder conviction and the same life sentence for the Irish man as a “necessary participant” in the pre-planned killing even if jurors could not support his principal argument that he pulled the trigger.

The possibility of a life sentence was cancelled out because jurors rejected prosecution claims Quinn belonged to a criminal organisation blamed for the killing, despite the prosecutor saying it was linked to the ongoing deadly feud between the Hutch and Kinahan families.

Jurors also ruled it had not been proven he was paid for the murder.

Appeal 

Quinn’s defence lawyer Pedro Apalategui said outside court last week he would “definitely appeal” to a higher court where three judges and not a jury will make the decisions.

He said: “We completely disagree with the verdict and will definitely be appealing once we know the sentence.”

Any appeal would be dealt with by a provincial court in Granada.

Apalategui said after the trial verdict he was hopeful it could take place as soon as September.

The new law on life imprisonment in Spain where it is known technically as revisable permanent imprisonment came into effect in March 2015.

It can only be applied in a limited number of the most serious crimes, which include murders committed by members of a criminal organisation, genocide and killing Spain’s King.

Under the terms of the legislation, courts have to revise the sentence every two years after a minimum 25 years and decide whether prisoners should continue to be held behind bars.

Critics are trying to get the legislation, which was recently expanded to cover crimes including gang rape, reversed.

The usual sentence for murder in Spain is 15 to 25 years. A 25-year sentence – the maximum for most murders – requires the existence of a series of aggravants.

The judge said Hutch’s murder was not a simple homicide punishable by 10 to 15 years in prison.

He described it as a killing where those responsible had done everything they could to ensure the possibility of the victim defending himself was minimised, one of the factors needed to make it a murder under Spanish law.

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Gerard Couzens

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