Wednesday 23 August 2017

Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal by Brian Meehan over Veronica Guerin murder

Brian Meehan was convicted of the murder of Veronica Guerinun
Brian Meehan was convicted of the murder of Veronica Guerinun
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal by Dubliner Brian Meehan over the rejection of his claim his conviction for the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin was a miscarriage of justice.

In a published determination, a three judge Supreme Court ruled Meehan had not met the necessary criteria for an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Mr Justice Frank Clarke, Mr Justice John MacMenamin and Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne ruled he had not shown the proposed appeal involved a matter of general public importance or that it was necessary, in the interests of justice, to permit an appeal.

Meehan sought an appeal against the Court of Appeal’s April 2016 judgment refusing to certify his conviction of the June 1996 murder of Ms Guerin was a miscarriage of justice.

The Director of Public Prosecutions had argued the grounds of appeal, on the facts of Meehan’s case, were “unstateable”.

Meehan was convicted in 1999 after a 31 day trial before the non-jury Special Criminal Court of Ms Guerin's murder and other offences involving firearms and drugs.

The prosecution case was that Meehan (48), from Crumlin, Dublin, was the driver of a motorcycle which pulled up alongside Ms Guerin’s car on the Naas Road, Dublin on June 26th 1996. She died after the pillion passenger shot her.

Meehan subsequently lost appeals against his conviction to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

He applied in 2015 to have his conviction certified a miscarriage of justice on grounds concerning whether evidence used in John Gilligan’s trial for the murder of Ms Guerin, of which charge Gilligan was acquitted, was properly disclosed to his lawyers and, if so, whether his lawyers failed to fully appreciate its significance.

Last year, the Court of Appeal (COA) ruled the evidence was properly disclosed to Meehan and his legal team. It also held the significance of the material was fully appreciated by, at the very latest, when his appeal against conviction was before the Court of Criminal Appeal in 2003.

In its determination, the Supreme Court said the “scattergun” approach to this application for a further appeal made it more difficult to establish if the 2016 COA decision contained errors.

There was no appeal against the COA finding that evidence was properly disclosed to Meehan’s side, it noted.

This application referred to alleged inconsistent or different approaches by two different divisions of the SCC in the Meehan and Gilligan cases concerning the credibility of evidence of a key witness, it said.

The notice of appeal did not make clear what relevance that might have to the issues in this case, it said. The SCC decisions were known of for some 15 years and it was “by no means clear” what legal consequences of any possible appeal would flow from the different approaches taken to the witness evidence.

In the circumstances, the Supreme Court would adopt the approach of the Court of Appeal to this application, which was to establish if there was any new, or newly discovered fact, that could establish a miscarriage of justice.

The Court of Appeal had decided all facts had been disclosed to Meehan and his lawyers during his trial or appeal proceedings, it said. Meehan had also provided no reasonable explanation for his failure to adduce evidence on those facts.

The fact Meehan’s side applied, at the time of his appeal against conviction, to admit new facts provided cogent evidence to suggest the significance of those facts was “well appreciated”, it said. That application to admit new facts was not proceeded with. 

No specific issue of any clarity was raised to show the Court of Appeal was wrong in its approach and there was no new, or no newly discovered, fact that could allow a miscarriage of justice be established, it ruled.

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