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Accused in criminal trial granted permission to attend his trial remotely

Mr Justice Tony Hunt said that it was an “unusual application but it comes out of the unusual times we live in”.

File photo
File photo
Image: Sasko Lazarov via RollingNews.ie

AN ACCUSED IN a criminal trial has been granted permission to attend his trial remotely, in what is believed to be a first for the Irish courts.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding at the non-jury Special Criminal Court, said today that it was an “unusual application but it comes out of the unusual times we live in”.

Ray Kennedy, who is charged with perverting the course of justice in connection with the murder of dissident republican Peter Butterly, will be allowed to attend his trial remotely via video-link for its duration, after the court found the accused had exceptional family circumstances.

Butterly, a 35-year-old father of two, was shot dead shortly after 2pm in the car park of the Huntsman Inn at Gormanston, Co Meath on 6 March 2013. He died from gunshot wounds to his neck and upper back.

Kennedy (40), with an address at Whitestown Drive, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15, is accused of carrying out an act intending to pervert the course of justice, by destroying a SIM card on 6 March 2013.

At a brief hearing this morning, Mr Justice Hunt said that trials involving single defendants can resume in the Special Criminal Court from 1 March and so Kennedy’s case “fitted the bill”.

Defence counsel Imelda Kelly BL, for Kennedy, informed the court that her client was the father of a young daughter, who was born with “a serious congenital condition”.

Kelly said the child requires regular attendance at Temple Street Children’s Hospital and she is very susceptible to Covid-19.

“The family unit is living in a very secure lockdown and have effectively been in lockdown since the birth of the child,” she added.

She asked the three-judge court if Kennedy could attend his trial remotely via video-link instead of physically presenting himself in the Special Criminal Court.

Anne-Marie Lawlor SC, prosecuting, said whilst there was no specific provision in law for such an application, the State had no “substantive objection” to it.

Mr Justice Hunt, sitting with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge Flann Brennan, said it was an “unusual application but it comes out of the unusual times we live in”.

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The presiding judge said the three-judge panel would accede to the application, which had “exceptional circumstances”. He said the risk to Kennedy’s child seemed to be “heightened” by her father “travelling to and from court” and being exposed to the movements of the public.

Furthermore, Kelly applied to the three-judge court for Mr Justice Hunt to recuse himself from Kennedy’s trial next week. She said: “The defence position is that you have withdrawn from other cases, which have arisen out of the death of Mr Butterly.”

In reply, Mr Justice Hunt said he had not withdrawn in the past and insisted he was not withdrawing from Kennedy’s case, which will begin on Monday. “Why would I not sit in this case, I know nothing of Mr Kennedy,” he indicated.

Lawlor said the view of the non-jury court “mimicked” the view of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and the State had “no issue with whichever was deemed to be the appropriate panel” hearing the case. The barrister said there was one mention of Kennedy’s name in a previous trial concerning his arrest and nothing had arisen from it.

Kennedy’s trial will commence at the non-jury court on Monday. It is expected to last between four and five weeks.

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Alison O'Riordan

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