McBrearty calls for deeper probe into alleged recording of his phone calls in murder case
Published 10/02/2016 | 02:30
A man who received a €1.5m settlement from the State after being wrongly considered a murder suspect has told the Fennelly Commission that phone conversations with his lawyers were recorded by gardaí.
Lawyers acting for Frank McBrearty Jnr have alleged that recordings were made while he was in custody over the death of cattle dealer Richie Barron, the Irish Independent has learned.
In a letter to the commission, it is also alleged phone calls made by Mr McBrearty's father, Frank Snr, and cousin Mark McConnell to members of their legal team were also recorded at Letterkenny Garda Station in Co Donegal.
The Fennelly Commission was set up in March 2014 to investigate revelations that non-999 phone calls had been routinely recorded in certain garda stations over a 30-year period.
Mr McBrearty, an independent county councillor, confirmed he had been in ongoing contact with the commission and had been asked to make a formal submission to it in writing. He said he had instructed his lawyers to write to the commission and that he had also held discussions with the Department of Justice.
The Morris Tribunal into garda corruption in Donegal was previously informed of the alleged recording of phone calls between prisoners and their solicitors. However, it did not inquire into the claims.
"I am unhappy that it wasn't investigated by the Morris Tribunal due to limitations in its terms of reference. I am now hopeful that this will be fully investigated by the Fennelly Commission," said Mr McBrearty.
The Morris Tribunal found that gardaí had attempted to frame Mr McBrearty and Mr McConnell for the murder of Mr Barron in October 1996.
Neither man had anything to do with his death and it later transpired Mr Barron was not murdered, but most likely died in a hit and run.
Mr McBrearty settled with the State after suing for wrongful arrest, malicious prosecution and breaches of his constitutional rights. His father was awarded €2.475m for damages to his business caused by a campaign of garda harassment following Mr Barron's death.
In an interim report last November, Mr Justice Nial Fennelly said the commission considered establishing whether any telephone conversations between solicitors and their clients were recorded to be one of the most important elements of its work.
"Solicitor/client confidentiality has long been regarded as a cornerstone of our legal and judicial system and any taint of impropriety on the part of An Garda Síochána would be extremely serious," he said.