Erased tapes allay fears of appeals mayhem
FEARS of a spate of criminal convictions being overturned as a result of the garda tapes revelations have eased this weekend after it emerged that almost all material was erased within weeks of it being recorded.
However, it is likely that there will still be a raft of further applications in the courts by legal teams acting for convicted criminals.
Lawyers for gangland murderer John Dundon, who was convicted in connection with the murder of rugby player Shane Geoghegan, have already signalled they will be examining whether they have grounds for appeal.
Meanwhile, the solicitor for one of two senior RUC men murdered by the IRA during the Troubles has called for the Smithwick Tribunal to be recalled.
The revelations that phone calls had been recorded since the Eighties could have major ramifications for the investigation into the fatal IRA ambush of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan on their way home from a security meeting in Dundalk in March 1989, lawyer for the Breen family John McBurney said.
"On a tape there could be a smoking gun, information relevant to the tribunal. There may be in existence a tape of a garda making a phone call to tell the IRA that Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan were on the way to Dundalk that afternoon. That could be on a tape," Mr McBurney said.
"Going beyond that, if there were conversations between gardai voicing concern that these early Eighties atrocities could have been the result of a leak, Judge Smithwick would have been very, very interested in that.
"At the tribunal, Judge Smithwick kept on asking witnesses: 'Were you not concerned about how the movements of people subsequently murdered became known to the IRA?'" Mr McBurney said.
But yesterday it emerged that the system of recording conversations used physical tapes which were rotated and taped over repeatedly.
According to a report yesterday, this method of recording meant that a taped conversation would only be available for a few weeks at most before it was taped over and lost.
The recording in the main garda stations was carried out by a private company, which has since gone out of business.
It is understood that the only tapes that were retained were those due to be used as evidence in court.