Man who shot publican blames links to Bertie for his conviction
A CAREER criminal jailed for life for the shooting of Charlie Chawke has argued that he could never have received a fair trial because of the publican's close relationship with Bertie Ahern.
Frank Ward (55), of Knockmore Avenue, Tallaght, pleaded guilty on the second day of his trial in October 2007 to all five charges against him, including robbery and assault causing serious harm following his part in the incident at the Goat Grill.
He told the Court of Criminal Appeal yesterday that potential jurors should have been asked their political views and that all "Fianna Failer supporters" should have been excluded as they would have had a prejudice against him because of the then Taoiseach's friendship with the publican.
He argued that jurors would have had a "natural empathy with the victim".
When the presiding judge, Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan, queried if it made any difference that he had pleaded guilty, Ward replied that this was "not relevant at the moment, judge".
Mr Chawke was seriously injured in the incident on October 6, 2003, and his right leg had to be amputated five days later.
Ward claimed that he had only pleaded guilty due to a "panic attack" caused by the fact that his usual tranquilising medication had been substituted with other drugs by prison authorities. This and other "environmental factors" had "coerced" him into pleading guilty, he said, subsequently denying that he had shot Mr Chawke at all.
The father of three represented himself in court yesterday, as he has done since coming before the courts. He entered the courtroom with two green Spar shopping bags stitched together as a receptacle for his large volume of papers and legal documents.
The judge reminded the court that Ward was in custody, before inviting him down to join the lawyers.
Mr Chawke was not present for the day-long hearing. At the original trial, the publican told how when he had seized an opportunity during the robbery to dive for Ward's gun, Ward had said: "You're a f***ing smart ass", aimed the gun and blew his knee away.
Larry Cummins, who was jailed for 15 years for his part in the armed robbery at the Goat Grill along with Ward, has since died in custody.
Rifling slowly through his papers, while addressing the judge in a low voice, Ward had to frequently be reminded to speak up and he was also urged to concentrate on what he wanted to say.
On one occasion, he claimed that he had not been lawfully charged with three firearms offences -- however, the judge told him that he should have raised this point at the original trial and not at this hearing, asking: "What's your excuse for not raising it then?"
"Total ignorance, judge," replied Ward.
He also argued that the list of jurors had been taken away from him at the start of the trial -- but the judge informed him that this was always done in every trial in case it was passed on to an "associate" who might then threaten jury members. Ward said he understood this.
A total of 26 grounds of appeal were submitted in a lengthy document put before the court by Ward.
When he later told the court that he wanted to admit "an exhibit", the judge told him that he could not, relenting when he realised that Ward had erred in his legal phraseology and merely wanted to put a matter of case law before the court.
"It's a matter of case law, judge, I call it an exhibit," he explained.
However, at the end of Ward's address, the judge told him that he had "made a good fist" of his day in court.
Paddy McCarthy, for the DPP, rebutted Ward's claims that he had grounds for appeal, saying he had pleaded guilty during the trial after saying: "This is going nowhere" and asking to be rearraigned.
When Mr McCarthy wondered if Ward could elaborate on what he meant by the "environmental factors" which had led him to plead guilty originally, the judge clarified that he meant the prison conditions.
Meanwhile, he pointed out that the Electoral Act of 1990 expressly prohibits the line of questioning as to how or for whom potential jurors voted.
"He made the choice to act on his own behalf and he must deal with the consequences," said Mr McCarthy.
Judgment was reserved until the new legal term in October.