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Scene of the crash in July 2021. Eamonn Farrell/

Inquest into deaths of three criminals killed in N7 crash adjourned after garda served with summonses

GSOC informed Dublin City Coroner’s Court of the criminal proceedings this morning and asked for an adjournment, which was granted.

AN INQUEST INTO the deaths of three men who were killed in a collision on the N7 in Dublin two years ago while fleeing from gardaí has been adjourned after the Garda watchdog served summonses on a member of the force in connection with the incident.  

The man met with Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) officers yesterday who served a number of prosecution summonses on him. The garda was invited to meet with GSOC investigators who served the summonses.

The three dead men – Dean Maguire (29), Karl Freeman (26) and Graham Taylor (31) – were killed instantly when their BMW vehicle burst into flames following a head-on crash with a truck between Citywest and Baldonnel on 7 July 2021 while they were driving on the wrong side of the carriageway.

A GSOC representative, David Grant, attended Dublin City Coroner’s Court this morning, where the inquest was due to begin, and informed the court of the criminal proceedings against the garda in relation to the case. 

Grant asked the court for an adjournment of the inquest, which was granted by the Coroner, Clare Keane.

In a statement, the Garda watchdog said: “GSOC attended a hearing of the Dublin City Coroner’s Court this morning in relation to a road traffic collision on the N7 in July 2021 in which three people died.

“GSOC requested an adjournment of coronial proceedings under the provisions of [Section] 25(2) of the Coroners Act, 1962, owing to the fact that the Director of Public Prosecutions has instituted criminal proceedings against a member of An Garda Síochána in relation to the incident,” the statement read.

“The Coroner granted the adjournment, pending determination of the criminal proceedings.”

During the hearing, solicitor James MacGuill for the Taylor family, interjected to say his clients were entitled to know the nature of the proceedings as “an issue of fairness.”

MacGuill said the families should be informed if the garda was to face one or multiple charges. “It is not an unreasonable request,” he added.

In response to the comments from the two solicitors, Keane stressed that the coroner’s court was not the forum for exploring the issue of criminal proceedings in the case.

The coroner also expressed concern that she did not want to open matters any further as they inevitably could lead to complications which might prejudice any related criminal prosecution.

She pointed out that a GSOC-appointed family liaison officer should be able to communicate with the families of the deceased on the details of the charges.

Keane acknowledged that it was “a very difficult situation” for the families of the three men but she said the issue was not going to be resolved in the coroner’s court.

The news of the prosecution of the garda was revealed in May during a coroner’s court hearing. 

Reacting to yesterday’s serving of summonses, Garda Representative Association (GRA) president Brendan O’Connor said the association ”has only been informed of the exact nature of these charges in the past 24 hours and will now take time to consider the implications and any possible course of action required”.

“We can assure all members that all relevant supports and advice have been made available to our colleague at this time and the Association will continue to do so,” O’Connor said. 

“While we respect the independence of both the offices of the DPP and GSOC we have a number of questions regarding the timing and handling of this case which we will address at an appropriate later date.”

News of the garda’s prosecution had raised a raft of controversy with Labour TD Alan Kelly raising the issue in the Dáil. 

Policing groups also strongly criticised the decision. O’Connor last month described news of the prosecution as “extremely concerning for our members”. 

Speaking to RTÉ’s News at One last month, the general secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), Antoinette Cunningham, said the way in which news of the prosecution of the garda was revealed was “simply wrong and unacceptable.”

Last August, the inquest heard the bodies of the three men had to be identified using DNA samples taken from relatives because of the extent of the injuries they suffered in the collision and subsequent fire.

Controversy was generated following the men’s deaths in 2021 over the conduct of mourners at the requiem mass and burial of Maguire.

The funeral at St Mary’s Priory church in Tallaght garnered international headlines after a screwdriver and torch – tools associated with burglars – were brought to the altar as offertory gift.

A poster brought to the church read: “RIP Dean – You know the score, get on the floor, don’t be funny, give me the money.”

All three men, who had a combined total of over 200 convictions, were known to gardaí and were believed to be key figures in a burglary gang that was linked to “Fat” Andy Connors – a crime gang leader who was shot dead outside his home in Saggart, Co Dublin in August 2014.

‘Fundamentally in error’

At the Coroner’s Court this morning, a lawyer for the family of one of three men killed in the collision accused the coroner of treating the families of the deceased outrageously over her decision to grant the open-ended adjournment.

Solicitor Michael Finucane claimed Keane, was “fundamentally in error” in granting an adjournment without fixing a date for the next hearing of the inquest without hearing any evidence.

He claimed the coroner’s ruling was “utterly deficient” in terms of her obligation under the European Convention on Human Rights to monitor the progress of a criminal prosecution in the case.

Finucane, who represents the Maguire family, claimed Keane had failed the families of the dead men in her obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

During a tense exchange with the coroner, Finucane remarked: “In terms of your function and your inquiry function, you could not have failed more starkly in your obligations to my clients and the families of the other deceased men.”

Contains reporting by Seán McCárthaigh and Jane Moore