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DPP employee to go on trial charged with breaking the Official Secrets Act

The case relates to files pertaining to the murder of Peter Butterly.

Image: PA Archive/PA Images

AN EMPLOYEE OF the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is to face a three-day trial accused of breaking the Official Secrets Act in connection with the Peter Butterly murder trial.

Jonathan Lennon, aged 34, from Clonee, Dublin 15 was charged with breaking the Official Secrets Act in relation to criminal proceedings resulting from the murder of Butterly, a dissident republican.

Butterly was shot dead outside The Huntsman Inn, Gormanston, Co Meath, in 2013.

Lennon faced his third hearing at Blanchardstown District Court yesterday.

Judge Gerard Jones ruled that sensitive prosecution evidence must not be given directly to the accused and he can only look at it in his lawyer’s office.

An order for disclosure of prosecution evidence had been made at an earlier stage.

The father-of-three is accused of four offences contrary to Section Four and 13 of the Official Secrets Act 1963, as amended by Section 48 of the Freedom of Information Act 1997.

It is alleged that on 7 September 2017 and the following day, at a place unknown in Dublin, without authorisation, he communicated with another person official information within the possession, custody or control of the DPP, a holder of public office, relating to the prosecution of individuals arising from the murder of Peter Butterly on 6 March 2013.

Judge Jones heard that the prosecution has furnished disclosure to Lennon’s solicitor.

However, a State solicitor explained, the evidence was to be released to Mr Lennon’s lawyer only.

Counsel for Mr Lennon made an application for the material to be released to the accused. The barrister submitted that the defence was unable to take instructions and his client was entitled to view and analyse the evidence by himself.

However, the prosecution objected and said that due to its sensitivity it was released with certain conditions. But it certainly did not prevent the defence from taking instructions from Lennon, it was contended.

The State solicitor said 80% to 90% of the material could be handed to the defendant directly but not the remaining evidence, which was referred to by the judge as “precious”.

Judge Jones ruled Lennon can go to his solicitor’s office and “spend morning ‘till night viewing this material”, however, he added that he did not want the evidence “out and about”.

The court heard it will be a three-day trial and senior counsel are to be retained by  both sides.

The case will be listed again for mention in January.

Lennon, dressed in jeans and an anorak, did not address the court.

Earlier the court had heard his solicitor Anne FitzGibbon had said she has received CCTV footage, memos of interviews and telephone records.

The court has heard the case involved alleged communications over two days.

At Lennon’s previous hearing he had been granted legal aid after the court heard he worked for the DPP but has been suspended from his job and was getting €400 a week.

He had a family and a mortgage, the solicitor submitted.

In July, at the Special Criminal Court, Dean Evans, 27, of Grange Park Rise, Raheny, Dublin, was given a mandatory life sentence for the murder of 35-year-old father of three Peter Butterly who was from Dunleer, Co. Louth.

Evans was extradited from Spain earlier this year after he spent 18 months on the run.

Two other men are already serving life sentences for the murder, after being found guilty in March this year. Edward McGrath, 35, of Land Dale Lawns, Springfield, Tallaght and Sharif Kelly, 47, of Pinewood Green Road, Balbriggan had both denied the murder.

Two other men are awaiting trial later this year on the same murder charge.

About the author:

Tom Tuite

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