'Great result for gardai, great result for us' - Brother of Veronica Guerin speaks after Brian Meehan fails in murder conviction appeal
The brother of the late Veronica Guerin has said he was "very pleased" with a "great result" after the Court of Appeal dismissed as an “abuse of process” Brian Meehan's bid to have his conviction for murdering the journalist declared a miscarriage of justice.
Ms Guerin was murdered on the Naas Road on June 26, 1996 while stopped at traffic lights. A motorcycle pulled up alongside her and the pillion passenger discharged a number of shots into her car.
Meehan (47), from Crumlin in Dublin, is serving a life sentence in Portlaoise prison for her murder having being convicted by the non-jury Special Criminal Court in July 1999 following a 31-day-trial.
It was the prosecution's case that he drove the motorcycle.
Meehan had applied to quash his 1999 murder conviction on the basis of alleged new or newly discovered facts following an unsuccessful appeal against conviction in 2006.
The alleged new evidence concerned matters which emerged in the course of the 2001 Special Criminal Court trial of John Gilligan at the close of which Mr Gilligan was ultimately acquitted of Ms Guerin's murder.
Dismissing Meehan's application under Section 2 of the Criminal Procedure Act today, Mr Justice George Birmingham said it was “entirely clear” that “no new fact or newly discovered fact” had been established.
Speaking outside the court today, the brother of Veronica Guerin, Jimmy, said: "I think thats the end of it now. We'll have no more cases. Its a great result for the gardaí and a great result for us.
"If anybody is abusing the process it's the vexatious cases that have been taken by Meehan and his likes.
"Justice Birmingham dealt with it excellently and dismissed any case that Meehan tried to make.
"It's no easier (on the family), things don't get easier but you just get on with it. But results like today are good and make you feel that bit better," he continued.
"I'm very pleased, delighted with the result and it puts an end now to all the cases hopefully, thats the whole judicial aspect disposed of.
"It's not easy (coming into court) but it's important to do it.
"I don't think I'll be laying eyes on him again. He's gone back now to where he's supposed to be and I'm happy with that.
"I think he will serve a life sentence."
It was abundantly clear, Mr Justice Birmingham told the court, that all of the material Meehan was seeking to rely upon now was available, at the latest, from the time of the Gilligan trial in 2001 and that the arguments he now presented had been formulated in detail by 2003.
He chose not to present those arguments before the Court of Criminal Appeal and the choices he made had “consequences”, the judge said.
To formulate grounds and arguments, not proceed with them and then seek to resurrect the same grounds and arguments years later as new facts is “quite unacceptable and indeed in the view of the court amounts to an abuse of process”.
Mr Justice Birmingham said the application had “morphed” from one based on alleged nondisclosure to one that was critical of his previous lawyers.
Where Meehan had to accept there had been disclosure, “he retreats” to a situation of saying his lawyers at trial did not appreciate the significance of the material that was disclosed. There was “no evidence to support that proposition whatsoever”.
His position toward his Court of Criminal Appeal legal team was "even more extreme". In effect, Meehan said the decision not to proceed with the motion to admit new evidence from the Gilligan and Ward trial transcripts was "contrary to his instructions".
He said he never wished to drop his motion to adduce additional evidence but his lawyers told him he had to - although no affidavit was provided by the solicitor who acted for him in the appeal.
“Having one's instructions terminated in one of the highest profile murder cases in the history of the State is not something that would be forgotten easily, even with the passage of time.”
Having criticised both sets of lawyers he then criticised the solicitor who lodged his Section 2 application for not pursuing it with the “required vigour”.
Meehan's appeal lawyers were “experienced and able”. The leader of the defence was particularly able, experienced and highly regarded and the court regarded it as inconceivable that such a team, so led, could have fundamentally misunderstood the situation.
“Notwithstanding the assertions made in relation to non-disclosure ... it does not seem, at this stage, to be in dispute that there was no non-disclosure, but that full disclosure was made”.
The court finds it “disturbing” that such allegations of non-disclosure could have been made without any factual basis for them, and it would seem without any real inquiry at to whether proper disclosure had in fact been made.
“Each and every fact was known at the time of the appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal and in most, if not all, of the cases long before that. There has been no reasonable explanation why arguments should be advanced, abondoned and then revived years later.”
“There has been and could be no suggestion of any new facts whatever coming to notice since the appeal was finally determined.”
“Neither, can it be said that the significance of the facts were not appreciated during the trial or appeal proceedings.”
The fact a motion was brought to admit additional evidence was “the clearest possible, and indeed conclusive, evidence that the significance of the matters now sought to be relied upon were considered before” his appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal.
Furthermore, Meehan had “operated on the basis that he can trawl through” transcripts, make a selection and then deploy the selected material. However, only in exceptional cases could that be permitted and this was “certainly not such an exceptional case”.
“Really this is a case where the appelant (Meehan) is saying that the approach of the Gilligan trial court is to be preferred to the approach of the court that dealt with his case.”
I doing so, he ignored the Supreme Court's remarks on corroboration in relation to Gilligan, the judge said.
Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court was satisfied “not only that all of the material pointed to” by Meehan was “propertly disclosed to him and his legal team but also that its significance was fully appreciated by them, at the very least by the time of his appeal against conviction” in 2003.
Accordingly, the court refused the application.
Meehan was lead away to continue serving the remainder of his life sentence.