Saturday 22 July 2017

'Black Widow' will take case to Europe as appeal bid fails

Tim Healy and Dearbhail McDonald

THE 'Black Widow' Catherine Nevin will sue the Government in the European courts after losing a bid to have her murder conviction declared a miscarriage of justice.

Lawyers for Nevin indicated that they would take her case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Solicitor Anne Fitzgibbon said that Nevin's legal team was "very disappointed" with the decision yesterday and added that preparations were now under way to take the case to Europe.

Nevin was not present in the Court of Criminal Appeal despite wanting to be there.

The CCA, led by Supreme Court Judge Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, dismissed her application for a certificate of miscarriage of justice. It reiterated the view of the original trial judge who said she had her husband Tom Nevin (55) assassinated and then she attempted to assassinate his character.

The CCA said her application relied on newly discovered facts that were "all collateral matters" and did not directly go to the question of who killed Mr Nevin, or who had him killed.

"This is hearsay of the rankest sort, vague in the extreme and simply irrelevant to the issues on this application," Mr Justice Hardiman said.

Nevin (56) was found guilty in April 2000 of the murder of her husband at their pub, Jack White's Inn, Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow, on March 19, 1996. She was also found guilty of soliciting three men to kill him in 1989 and 1990.

She denied the charge. She is now serving a life sentence.

An appeal against her conviction was dismissed in 2003 and she subsequently sought, in a final appeal, to have her murder conviction declared a miscarriage of justice. Nevin sought to have her conviction quashed because she claimed new or newly discovered facts showed it to be unsafe.

Those facts, she claimed, concerned the credibility of three prosecution witnesses -- William McClean, Gerry Heapes, and John Jones -- and possibly also the credibility and connections of another state witness, barrister Patrick Russell.

She claimed those new facts were contained in Special Branch files relating to these four witnesses, and relating to Mr Nevin. This information had been handed in to the trial judge who refused to admit it to evidence because of lack of relevancy, it was also claimed.

There were also newly discovered facts, she said, that McClean had paramilitary connections at the time of her trial and/or was a paid state informer since 1974, and that Heapes and Jones were also paid informers at the time of her trial.

Flawed

The failure of the DPP and/or the trial judge to make any adequate disclosure of this newly-discovered material rendered the trial inherently flawed, Nevin claimed.

The miscarriage of justice application was also told by counsel for Nevin that her side had discovered another document known as a garda "suspect antecedent form" which may have placed McClean as a suspect in the matter himself.

It was claimed this was because of McClean's alleged presence -- which he denied -- in the Four Courts Hotel in Dublin in days preceding the Dublin/Monaghan bombings in 1974. Material given to Mr Justice Henry Barron, who investigated the bombings, led that judge to believe McClean had a known association with a well-known loyalist paramilitary, Joseph Stewart Young, it was claimed.

Mr Justice Hardiman, delivering the three-judge CCA's decision yesterday, said the newly discovered facts could only be said to be relevant because they concerned the credibility of a witness, William McClean, who was produced by the prosecution at her trial as one of the three men solicited to kill Mr Nevin.

The only conceivable basis upon which McClean could have been questioned about whether or not he was the man in the hotel was that it was relevant to credibility. But because it was a collateral issue, it appeared McClean's answer would have been binding and could not have been taken any further, he said.

The purpose of this rule was to prevent a trial from becoming encumbered by perhaps an unlimited number of quite different issues, the judge said.

Having regard to this, the CCA said there was nothing in the garda material or in the "suspect antecedent form", or in a bundle of 140 other forms inspected by the court, which gives "the slightest credence, direct or indirect, express or implied" to the allegation that the witnesses were informers.

The material relating to the alleged presence of McClean in the Four Courts Hotel was "simply too remote to meet the criteria" in forming significant newly discovered facts, the judge said.

Irish Independent

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