Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Dublin: 13°C Tuesday 9 August 2022

Veronica Guerin's killer is appealing his conviction for her murder

On 26 June 26 1996, Veronica Guerin was shot in her car at traffic lights on the Naas Road.

Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

BRIAN MEEHAN, the man convicted of the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin, is seeking to have his conviction declared a miscarriage of justice.

Meehan is appearing in the Court of Criminal Appeal today.

On 26 June 26 1996, Veronica Guerin was shot in her car at traffic lights on the Naas Road.

In 1999, the court found that Meehan drove the motorbike which approached Guerin’s window, before a pillion passenger fired six shots into the car.

Meehan was jailed for life following a trial in the Special Criminal Court.

“New or newly-discovered facts”

However, today Meehan’s defence claims “new or newly-discovered facts” came to light during the 2001 trial of criminal John Gilligan.

A convicted drug dealer, Gilligan was acquitted of Guerin’s murder following Meehan’s conviction.

This morning the Court of Criminal Appeal was told that “critical evidence” pertaining to one witness was not disclosed during Meehan’s trial, but that subsequently, the evidence was heard during Gilligan’s trial.

Testimony by Meehan’s accomplice, Russell Warren, was central in Meehan’s original trial. He gave evidence against Meehan and was entered into the witness protection programme.

He testified he was in “constant contact” with Meehan on the day of the murder on the phone. He also testified that a motorbike, the one he said was used in the murder, was stolen and stored in a garage in Terenure prior to the murder.

Warren testified that Meehan came to test the bike the day before the murder. However, he said he was not there in the morning when Meehan picked up the bike.

PA-3706941 Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Marion Finnegan gave evidence in the original trial that she had seen a man in a green jacket outside the Naas Courthouse on the day of the murder speaking on a mobile phone.

The prosecution in the case stated that this placed Mr Warren at the courthouse and corroborated his evidence given in the trial. The court at the time found that it was “beyond all reasonable doubt” that it placed Mr Warren at the steps of the courthouse.

During the Gilligan trial it emerged that Mr Warren took part in an identification parade and Ms Finnegan could not identify him in a line-up.

Hugh Hartnett, defending, said the evidence that Ms Finnegan had taken part in an identification parade at a garda station was not available in Meehan’s trial and was unknown to both the defence and prosecution in the original trial.

The defence said that the “old-fashioned” disclosure system in a case involved all parties going to the garda station to look at the evidence. He concluded that all parties who had inspected the evidence at the time must have been unaware of the evidence of Ms Finnegan and the line-up, which was later used as evidence towards Gilligan’s acquittal.

Critical evidence

“There is criticism on both sides,” said Hartnett, but made the case that it is “newly-discovered” evidence.

The DPP said it is an old fact, and it was neither new or newly discovered.

“This is of radical importance in the case… it is significant that Ms Finnegan was unable to identify him when asked to do so,” said Hartnett.

He said that if this evidence was known to the legal team it would have been raised. The court or anyone can not be criticised for that, said Hartnett, as no one seemed to know about the evidence.

Hartnett said this was “critical evidence” which determined that there were two “radically different judgements” in the two trials.

“If it was missed, it was missed by the prosecution as well as the defence, and it was certainly missed by the judges – these things happen,” said Hartnett.

The court also heard that details about witnesses to the killing on the Naas Road emerged during Gilligan’s trial, but were not heard from in Meehan’s, which his legal team said may have been crucial to his defence.

Hartnett said a number of witnesses were not disclosed to Meehan prior to his trial, and only became aware of it during Gilligan’s trial.

The defence in Meehan’s original trial made the case that Warren was not in Naas at the time of the murder, and due to him being entered into witness protection, his evidence must be approached with caution.

These witness evidence used in Gilligan’s trial, cast doubt on Warren’s testimony against Meehan, said the defence.

Public views

Hartnett said the court should be concerned about what the public think about the two cases, stating how can one trial rely on evidence that convicted a man of murder, when two years later, it cannot be relied upon.

“What must the public think?” he asked. He stated it was “not desirable”.

Making a difference

A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article.

Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can make sure we can keep reliable, meaningful news open to everyone regardless of their ability to pay.

The defence also said that the phone call evidence “doesn’t add up”.

Hartnett asked the three Court of Appeal judges to “hear the evidence in the round.”

The judge said that this evidence was material that was in fact available to all parties, both before the Meehan trial and after the Gilligan trial. He pointed out that submissions for an appeal were made but were not proceeded with.

“This court must look at facts”

Hartnett questioned that if the court identifies a “flaw” in a case can it say, “it’s too late now, you should have done it then?”

“Once a flaw is recorded in a case it is obliged to act and address it. This court must look at facts… if there is an issue of significance which could have changed the outcome.”

“If a jury were deprived of it from a case of minor assault to murder, what would happen? I submit the court would be bound to quash the conviction.”

“These are critical points. Evidence was not made aware to the applicant prior to or during the trial. Had they done so, the applicant may not have been convicted of murder.

“There could have been a different result.”

Looking onward, grey-haired Meehan wearing a maroon jumper, check purple shirt and grey trousers, listened to the DPP tell the court that the evidence in question was known to all legal teams, including Meehan’s lawyers.

DPP, Tom O’Connell said the applicant “seeks to dodge” the regulations in which you can bring an appeal.

O’Connell said Meehan is now on his fourth set of lawyers in this case and that he appealed in 2006. It was put to the court that Meehan referred to “serious acts of non-disclosure” prior to his trial that would have been critical to his defence.

“He suggested he was unaware that Mr Warren was put on ID parade,” said O’Connell, who said “all documents were made available to the defence”. He told the court all the documents were available and there were records that photocopies were made of the evidence also.

O’Connell said a list of all witnesses and their statements were available to Meehan. He said his application doesn’t apply today.

The appeal will continue tomorrow morning at the Court of the Criminal Appeal.

Read: Two decades after Veronica Guerin’s murder, her killer is appealing his conviction>

Read next: