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Santina Cawley (2) was murdered in July 2019. Provision

Woman convicted of killing Santina Cawley (2) appeals conviction

Karen Harrington argues that the use of CCTV during her original trial breached her privacy rights.

CHILD-KILLER KAREN HARRINGTON, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of two-year-old Santina Cawley, has launched a bid to overturn her conviction, arguing that CCTV footage that captured the inside of her home amounted to a breach of her privacy rights.

Harrington (40) was convicted by a jury in 2022 of the murder of the toddler, who was found with extensive injuries in the appellant’s apartment in Cork City.

Harrington had denied the murder of Santina at her apartment at Elderwood Park, Boreenmanna Road, Cork, on 5 July 2019.

However, in May 2022 at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork, seven men and four women returned a unanimous guilty verdict before Mr Justice Michael MacGrath. Harrington was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Santina.

The trial heard that Michael Cawley, Santina’s father, had been in a relationship with Harrington at the time and that he had left Santina in Harrington’s care in her apartment when he went into Cork City in the early hours of 5 July 2019, to try and find his cousin who had come from Limerick.

During the trial, the jury heard evidence that Santina suffered a total of 53 separate injuries and Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster told the trial that her injuries could not have been accidental such was their multiplicity and ubiquity all over her body.

Dr Bolster told the trial that Santina Cawley, who was just 47cm tall and weighed 10.3kg, died from traumatic brain injury and upper spinal cord injury together with polytrauma and lower limb injuries, all a result of blunt force trauma.

At the Court of Appeal today, Jane Hyland SC, for the appellant, argued that CCTV footage taken from an address that backed onto Harrington’s duplex amounted to a breach of her right to privacy and should not have been put before a jury.

Hyland said that “the trial judge erred in law in admitting into evidence CCTV footage from Clanrickarde Estate”.

“The appellant submits that the said footage was highly prejudicial and that its prejudicial effect far outweighed its probative value at the trial,” submitted Hyland.

“It is submitted that the footage invaded the appellant’s right to privacy together with the inviolability of her dwelling under the Irish Constitution by capturing not only the exterior of her dwelling but the interior also,” submitted Hyland.

Hyland said the footage “directly interfered” with Harrington’s right to privacy under EU law with regard to the European Convention on Human Rights and on protection of personal data under the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Hyland submitted that the Data Protection Act 2018, in regard to processing personal data relating to criminal convictions and offences, demanded “suitable and specific measures being taken to safeguard the fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject (Harrington)”.

Counsel submitted that metadata – relating to phone records – referred to in the case of murderer Graham Dwyer “came within the meaning of personal data” within data protection laws.

Hyland said the retention of that data could be likened to the retention of personal data “in relation to a specific data subject when, for example, domestic CCTV is installed for the purposes of preventing damage or guarding a dwelling”.

Infamous murderer Dwyer is serving a life sentence for the murder of 36-year-old childcare worker Elaine O’Hara who was last seen alive in August 2012 in a park in Shanganagh, south Dublin.

After his 2015 conviction, Dwyer brought a legal challenge on the retention of his mobile phone data.

His appeal was upheld by the High Court which was a decision itself then appealed by the State and subsequently referred to the European Court of Justice. Dwyer is awaiting judgement in a Supreme Court Appeal against his conviction.

The European Court of Justice, submitted Hyland, “confirmed that EU law precludes national legislative measures which provided, as a preventative measure, for the general and indiscriminate retention of traffic and location data relating to electronic communications, for the purposes of combating serious crime”.

Sean Gillane SC, for the State, submitted that on “day one” of Harrington’s trial the issue of CCTV in the case had been addressed by then defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC so that footage could be truncated and presented by a Garda before the jury.

Gillane said the Garda had then been cross-examined on “every clip” by the defence and that “all of this was done in the presence of a jury”.

Gillane said the defence had asked that a “specific” piece of footage be played without interruption to the jury and that the defence’s attitude towards the CCTV evidence had been the “exact opposite” of overlooking it during the trial.

Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, sitting with Ms Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh and Ms Justice Tara Burns said the court would reserve its judgement in the matter.

Paul Neilan and Isabel Hayes.