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Special Criminal Court accepts allegations former councillor claimed he was in IRA

Jonathan Dowdall falsely imprisoned and waterboarded a man who came to his house looking to buy a motorbike.

Jonathan Dowdall
Jonathan Dowdall

THE SPECIAL CRIMINAL Court has accepted allegations that a former Sinn Féin councillor claimed he was in the IRA and threatened the family of a man he had falsely imprisoned and waterboarded.

Justice Isobel Kennedy, presiding at the non-jury court, returned judgement this afternoon to decide on a dispute between the prosecution and the defence on the facts of the case of Jonathan Dowdall (38) and his father Patrick Dowdall (59).

Last month, footage recorded on a mobile phone was shown to the court of Jonathan Dowdall wearing a balaclava and holding a tea-towel to the man’s face before pouring water over his head.

The court heard that Jonathan Dowdall believed the victim, Alexander Hurley, was pretending to be a barrister and that he was seeking Dowdall’s bank details in order to defraud him.

The two men had met after Dowdall had advertised a motorbike for sale on Donedeal.ie.

Jonathan Dowdall, with an address at Navan Road, Dublin 7 and his father Patrick Dowdall, of the same address, had both admitted to falsely imprisoning Alexander Hurley by detaining him without his consent at Navan Road, Dublin 7 on 15 January 2015.

Both men had also pleaded guilty to threatening to kill Hurley at the same place on the same date.

Prosecution counsel, Vincent Heneghan SC, today called Alexander Hurley to give evidence to the hearing.

Hurley said he made contact with Jonathan Dowdall concerning the purchase of the motorbike on Donedeal.ie on 12 January and they arranged to meet.

The witness later went to Jonathan Dowdall’s house on the Navan Road to examine the motorbike. The court heard that Hurley had a conversation with Patrick Dowdall while he was there. The only literature that was ever exchanged between them on this date was Jonathan Dowdall’s business card, he said.

Call for dinner

“Jonathan Dowdall’s wife was there, his eldest daughter and I think some other young children were there but I didn’t have conversations with them,” he said. Jonathan Dowdall then gave Hurley a lift into town.

The witness agreed that Jonathan Dowdall’s wife emailed her husband’s bank details to him after this. Hurley testified that he had only agreed to purchase the motorbike if he was able to obtain finance. “I had received a rejection from one institution and was awaiting a decision from another,” he said.

Hurley said that Jonathan Dowdall then phoned him on 14 January to invite him to dinner. “I was concerned as I didn’t know the individual. I arranged to meet him at 7pm outside the Rotunda Hospital on January 15,” he said.

The court heard that Jonathan Dowdall drove Hurley to his home on the Navan Road on 15 January.

As we proceeded to the front door, I was asked was I looking forward to dinner and I said yes. When the front door was opened, Patrick Dowdall was inside the door and I was immediately ushered into the garage.

Hurley said that when the ordeal ended at 10pm he was bundled into a car with Jonathan Dowdall, his father and a third individual.

“Jonathan Dowdall had my phone and he was deleting every record in my phone. When I got out of the car the time was 10.35pm,” he said.

The witness testified that there were three men in the garage during the ordeal that night. “There was one female at the door-frame and that would have been the daughter (Jonathan Dowdall’s daughter) recording the incident,” he said

Hurley agreed with Heneghan that Jonathan Dowdall said he was a member of the IRA. “Jonathan Dowdall asked me did I know who he was, I said I didn’t, he said he was part of Sinn Féin. Patrick Dowdall backed up the statement and said he (Jonathan Dowdall) was a highly-recognised figure and I went on to tell him what he wanted to hear,” said Hurley.

Hurley said he was driven by Jonathan Dowdall in the car to a remote location in Dublin after the ordeal.

I was told to get the f**k out of Dublin and also told if I go to the f**king guards I would be picked up in a matter of hours and they would kill my family if I made a report to gardaí.

Under cross-examination by Michael O’Higgins SC, defending Jonathan Dowdall, Hurley said he presented himself as a barrister as he was nervous and he did not want to “expose” his “true identity.” “I know it was silly to do that. I didn’t know the individual and I got nervous. It was on the spur-of the moment,” he said.

Hurley agreed with O’Higgins that he had posed as a barrister previously as he was “going through a tough time”.

“It was wrong of me to do it,” he said.

Insurance policy 

The witness agreed with counsel that he told Jonathan Dowdall that he was a barrister to gain his trust but that was “as far as it went”. He disagreed that it was done to get the motorbike for free.

Hurley disagreed with O’Higgins that after he tried on the motorbike gear in Jonathan Dowdall’s house, he left with Jonathan Dowdall’s insurance policy and ID card.

The barrister put it to Hurley that the idea of Jonathan Dowdall inviting him for dinner was “nonsense”. The witness denied this and said: “It was nothing to do with a receipt, it was an invite to dinner as I was told his father enjoyed my company immensely on the previous occasion”.

Hurley said he was “shocked and traumatised” after the ordeal and sat in the shower for a few hours “to gather his thoughts” and “wash off the hairs” due to his head having been shaved by Jonathan Dowdall.

The witness said he did not know where Jonathan Dowdall dropped him off but it was a “dark street with high walls”.

O’Higgins put it to the witness that he went to Jonathan Dowdall’s house to engage in acts of deception. “I didn’t set out with that mindset, I do 100% accept I took wrong turns in my earlier life, we all make mistakes but I did not do that,” he said.

Under cross-examination by Dean Kelly BL, defending Patrick Dowdall, Hurley said he was dropped off in the car by Jonathan Dowdall after 10pm on 15 January .

Hurley said that while Patrick Dowdall made no direct reference to his son being a member of an organisation, he did “back him up”.

Defence counsel, O’Higgins, then called Jonathan Dowdall to give evidence to the hearing. Jonathan Dowdall agreed with counsel that he had pleaded guilty to one count of false imprisonment and one count of threatening to kill Hurley. Jonathan Dowdall added:

It shouldn’t have happened. I’m sorry it did happen. I’m genuinely sorry it happened.

The accused said he was selling his motorbike and Hurley came to his house to inspect it. “Hurley looked at the bike and was chatting to family members. He asked me would I sell him it. He said he was headhunted to work as a barrister. I also offered to sell him motorbike clothes,” he said.

Jonathan Dowdall said Hurley took a long time to try on the clothes as he was searching the pockets of the jacket. “I got a little bit suspicious. My insurance policy and driving licence were in the pockets of the jacket,” he said. Jonathan Dowdall said he noticed that his insurance policy went missing the following day.

The accused denied that he invited Hurley to his house for dinner and said Hurley came to his house on 15 January as he wanted to give him a receipt for the money order for payment of the bike.

UDA claims

Jonathan Dowdall said the ordeal lasted for “thirty or forty minutes max” and Hurley was left on his own in the garage. He denied telling Hurley that he was in the UDA saying: “No, it was never said.” He denied issuing a threat against Hurley’s family and said he was afraid his identity would be taken by Hurley.

The accused agreed with Heneghan that he worked in the electrical business and he had no previous convictions. Jonathan Dowdall said he was not a member of Sinn Féin in January 2015. He said only his father and himself were present in the house on January 15 and disagreed that a third man was present in the house on the evening. He said he could not recall who made the “shocking” recording that night.

Jonathan Dowdall said he never referenced the IRA during Hurley’s false imprisonment and never threatened Hurley’s family. The accused said he deleted things from Hurley’s phone as Hurley had access to his details.

Defence counsel, Dean Kelly BL, then called Patrick Dowdall to give evidence to the hearing. Patrick Dowdall said Hurley was present in his son’s house for “about 40 minutes to an hour”. Patrick Dowdall denied that he caused Hurley to believe that his son was a member of the IRA and a member of a political party. He said threats were “never” made to Hurley’s family.

Patrick Dowdall agreed with Heneghan that what happened to Hurley was a “spur of the moment decision” and “it just got out of hand”.

Returning judgement, Justice Kennedy said that after looking at the phone records she was not satisfied that Jonathan Dowdall made the first phone call to Hurley and would give the accused men the benefit of the doubt. She said she was satisfied that Jonathan Dowdall had invited Hurley for dinner in his house.

Justice Kennedy also said she accepted that Patrick Dowdall was at the door and had ushered Hurley into the garage.

The judge said she was satisfied that Hurley was in the garage for approximately two hours and she did not accept the Dowdall’s evidence that he was there for between 30 minutes and one hour. Hurley had maintained he was in the Dowdall’s house for three hours.

Justice Kennedy said it was clear that Hurley’s recollection regarding the UDA claim was “flawed” but she accepted IRA claims were made by Jonathan Dowdall.

The judge said she accepted that Hurley’s family were threatened.

Regarding Hurley taking a copy of Jonathan Dowdall’s insurance policy without his permission, the judge said this was not relevant on an assessment of the facts.

Justice Kennedy said the three-judge, non-jury court will proceed with sentencing at 12.45pm tomorrow.

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Alison O'Riordan

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