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Defence team for Veronica Guerin's killer says court must look at 'flaw' in original trial

The convicted killer of the journalist is seeking for his conviction to be quashed.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

“THIS LONG CRIMINAL case, almost two decades long, should be brought to an end.”

Those were the words of Paul Anthony McDermott, prosecution for the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) in Brian Meehan’s appeal to quash his murder conviction of journalist Veronica Guerin.

Yesterday, Hugh Hartnett, defending, said a key witness in the original trial, Marion Finnegan, testified that Meehan’s accomplice Russell Warren was in Naas on 26 June 1996 – the day six shots were fired into Guerin’s car on the Naas Road.

Warren gave evidence against Meehan and was entered into the witness protection programme.

The defence makes the case that Finnegan failed to identify Warren in an identification line-up and that no legal team in the original trial knew of this evidence.

John Gilligan also went on trial for the murder of Veronica Guerin. The evidence in question was raised in his trial. However, he was acquitted of murder, but jailed for importing cannabis resin.

Hartnett maintains that it is crucial evidence that should have been raised in the original Meehan trial.

McDermott said that if a lawyer from another jurisdiction were to walk into the Court of Appeal today they might ask why this case is before the court again.

“Had there been a cold case review, was new DNA evidence found, or perhaps someone on their death bed made a confession?”

“This section 2 appeal is based on nothing new since the criminal trial,” he said.

ID parade

He said the defence’s argument that the identification parade was not appreciated at the time of the trial does not stand up. “We know the legal team had access to all the statements at the garda station.”

McDermott said the ID parade was reviewed on 10 June 1999, day four of the original 32-day trial.

He said that perhaps it was a bad decision to not deploy the evidence in the trial, as it was in Gilligan’s trial, but said it does not fall within the rules of making an appeal.

VERONICA GUERIN MURDER STORY CRIME VICTIMS MURDERED REPORTERS PORTRAIT LANDSCAPE Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

The issue was also raised as to why Meehan is raising the matter some 16 years after his original trial, stating it could have been raised back at his first appeal in 2006. He said Meehan was only doing so now as he had nothing else.

He said something similar happened in the Joe O’Reilly appeal. In that case, he brought an appeal on the issue that a book of evidence was found in the jury room during the murder trial. O’Reilly and his team were made aware of the incident.

“He was aware it could bring the case down,” said McDermott, but said a decision was made to continue with the trial. O’Reilly later tried to bring an appeal on the basis of incident; however, the Court of Appeal ruled that O’Reilly was aware of the matter during the original trial and said he could not deploy it years later.

Raising the point

Today the defencewere asked why Meehan didn’t raise the point in his original appeal if the defence were making the case that an injustice had happened.

Hartnett told the court that neither the prosecution or the defence must not have known the evidence that Finnegan could not identify Warren existed.

He put it to the three judges that if the prosecution did know about the evidence they were ”obliged to put it forward” and make it known to the court. “That is the ethic”.

“They are not entitled to play ‘catch me if you can’,” said Hartnett.

“I say they could not have known. This was missed. Why would it have not been used by either side,” he asked.

“It was missing to the minds of the jury, the three judges sitting,” said Hartnett, making the point that if this had happened in another jury trial it would be deemed very serious.

“This court cannot ignore it… my friends wish to airbrush this out of the case and work on the peripheries.”

Hartnett said the argument of when the point is raised is “irrelevant”, stating that only recently the Court of Appeal quashed a case that was over 40 years old.

27/6/2006. Brian Meehan Court Scenes Brian Meehan leaving court following his appeal in 2006. Source: Rollingnews.ie

Court procedure

He said court procedure must be set aside if the court finds that something questions the validity of the original trial. Hartnett said Meehan was entitled to a proper trial if an injustice was deemed to have taken place. The judge said he had access to the court to raise the issue for many years.

Hartnett said the point was the ‘flaw’ in the original trial was being raised now, in this court. ”You can’t say it is too late in the day to deal with it now.”

He returned to the argument McDermott’s made in court today about someone from another country entering the court. He said they would question why a person was outside of their time limit when it came to raising a matter of injustice in a trial.

“They would say it is very strict there. You may have been tried and convicted, but hard luck.”

McDermott said Meehan could not rely on transcripts of the Gilligan trial to make his case.

He said the evidence from Finnegan was not the only factor that led to Meehan’s conviction, but said there was other evidence, such as the telephone records, which showed Meehan was in contact with Gilligan, and other circumstantial evidence.

Meehan is making his appeal under Section 2 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1993 which states that a person who remains convicted after appeal may apply to the court to have their convictions quashed based on alleged new of newly discovered facts that show a miscarriage of justice occurred.

The Court of Appeal has reserved judgment on whether Brian Meehan can apply to have his conviction for murdering Veronica Guerin declared a miscarriage of justice.

Read: Veronica Guerin’s killer is appealing his conviction for her murder>

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