Tuesday 6 December 2016

Serial killer Mark Nash loses appeal seeking damages for murder trial delays

Tim Healy

Published 24/10/2016 | 13:19

Mark Nash at a table quiz just hours before brutal double murder (Photo: Prime Time)
Mark Nash at a table quiz just hours before brutal double murder (Photo: Prime Time)

Serial killer Mark Nash has lost a Supreme Court appeal seeking damages for delay in prosecuting him for the Grangegorman murders.

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Nash is currently serving a life sentence after being found guilty of the murders of Sylvia Sheils (59) and Mary Callanan (61) at their sheltered housing in Grangegorman in Dublin in 1997, which is currently under appeal.  He was previously convicted for the murder in 1997 of two people in Ballintober, Co Roscommon.

In 2012, the High Court dismissed proceedings brought by Nash against the DPP aimed at preventing the Grangegorman trial from proceeding.

He had sought the prohibition of his trial on grounds including the delay in bringing the charges, publicity surrounding the case, and because of the unavailability of a witnesses including Dean Lyons who died in 2000.

Nash also claimed he is entitled to damages because his rights to a trial with due expedition, under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) Act 2003, had been breached. 

The High Court dismissed his application to stop his prosecution.

That court, in a separate judgment, also dismissed the damages claim.

He then appealed both decisions to the Supreme Court which dismissed the attempt to stop his prosecution which meant he trial went ahead.

The question of damages remained and Monday (Oct 24), in a unanimous judgment, a five-judge Supreme Court also dismissed the damages claim.

Giving the judgment, Mr Justice Frank Clarke said it is clear damages may be available breach of a right to a timely trial, either under the Constitution or the 2003 ECHR Act, at least at the level of general principle.

It was necessary to start an analysis of Nash's damages claim by reference to the facts of the case whether any case had been made out for culpable delay on the part of the State, or others for who the State may be responsible, the judge said. 

He was not satisfied any culpable delay on the parts of the State or others had been established in the circumstances of this case.

Earlier, Mr Justice Clarke said the Grangegorman investigation fitted neatly into the common term of a a "cold case" where the authorities from time to time choose to take a fresh look at cases and where, occasionally, fresh evidence may emerge.

There was no such thing, under Irish law, as a formally open or closed investigation and any crime can always be subject of a further review, he said.

In this case, on one such occasion, it proved possible to find some additional very small and hidden samples of blood (on clothing) which, in the light of improved forensics, proved capable of yielding results.

"I cannot see that any culpability can be placed on the prosecuting authorities in those circumstances", he said.

The court also dismissed a cross-appeal by the DPP against a decision to award Nash one-third of the costs of his action.   Nash did not avail of the free legal aid scheme to take his challenge, Mr Justice Clarke noted.

Nash's counsel told the appeal he was charged in 2009 - some ten years after the DPP directed he be charged with both Grangegorman murders.

Nash made admissions to the gardai concerning those murders, which were later retracted, in August 1997, the court heard.

For 12 years Nash was treated as a suspect.

Counsel said the delay was because forensic evidence obtained from tests carried out on clothing belonging to Nash  should have been carried out years earlier than they were. This resulted in a less satisfactory trial, it was argued.

Nash had also brought an application for the inclusion of additional evidence, not previously before the court, as part of the application for damages.

Counsel said there was "a lack of candour" by the Forensic Science Laboratory as it had not disclosed a potential compromise of forensic evidence in the case.

The DPP argued the application should be dismissed.

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