Monday 24 October 2016

Seven men cleared of IRA membership as DPP to offer no further evidence in case

Alison O’Riordan

Published 30/06/2015 | 12:48

Judge's gavel
Judge's gavel

Seven Dublin men have been cleared of IRA membership by the Special Criminal Court today after the DPP said it would offer no further evidence in the case.

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Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding at the non-jury court, directed that the seven men be acquitted after prosecution counsel Ms Tara Burns SC said that the DPP would not be offering any more evidence in light of the court's ruling last week that the arrests of six of the men were unlawful.

The seven men acquitted by the court are : Brian Nick Mc Bennett (54) of Ard Collum Ave., Artane,Peter Burns (39) of Glenshane Crescent, Tallaght, Kevin Braney (39) also of Glenshane Crescent, Tallaght, Michael Barr (33) of Carlton Court, Poppintree, Ballymun, John Brock (41) of Glenview Park, Tallaght, Declan Phelan (31) of Lanndale Lawns, Tallaght and Desmond Christie (49) of Liam Mellows Road, Finglas.

Each of the men had pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on July 3, 2013.

Last Friday The Special Criminal Court ruled that the arrests of six Dublin men accused of IRA membership at a house in Tallaght were unlawful.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt said that in each of the six cases, they fell short of a "modest level of necessary objective justification" for a Section 30 Offences Against the State Act arrest on suspicion of IRA membership as explained by the Supreme Court in the Walshe v Fennessy case in 2003.

The seventh accused was Peter Burns (39) of Glenshane Crescent but he did not challenge the legality of the arrest. 

Ms Burns today asked that the court direct an acquittal in relation to the each of the accused.

 The court previously heard that Gardai found two packages containing tightly folded paper wrapped in clingfilm that were allegedly communications from prisoners in Portlaoise Prison on a coffee table in a front room where the seven men were gathered.

 Earlier in the trial the court had previously embarked on a “voir dire” or trial within a trial relating to the search warrant and the arrest of the accused at the house in Tallaght.

 At the opening of the trial, Ms Burns said it was the prosecution's case that the seven accused men were holding a meeting in the house as members of the IRA to discuss those communications.

 Ms Burns previously said that the charges arose from a search of a house in Glenshane Crescent, Tallaght where the accused Peter Burns lived with his father.

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