Sunday 23 April 2017

Trial of man accused of €600k 'tiger kidnapping' collapses amid fears jury 'getting outside information'

Jonathan Gill (Pic Collins Courts)
Jonathan Gill (Pic Collins Courts)

Andrew Phelan

THE trial of a Dublin man accused of kidnapping a family during a €660,000 “Tiger” robbery has collapsed over suspicions that the jury got “outside information.”

The jury in the trial of Jonathan Gill was discharged this morning after a judge heard it was suspected that members had received information from other people.

Judge Elma Sheahan made the decision after a note detailing the suspicions was handed in today, on the sixth day of the jury’s deliberations. A defence lawyer said the trial had been “utterly and fatally compromised.”

The jury had been considering a verdict for just over 14 hours.

The accused was remanded on continuing bail to appear in court again on April 28.

Mr Gill (35) had been accused of falsely imprisoning a postal worker, his partner and their 10-week-old baby daughter before stealing the cash from the man’s workplace.

Mr Gill, of Malahide Road, Swords, had denied falsely imprisoning postal worker Warren Nawn, his partner Jean Marie Matthews and their baby in Drogheda between August 1 and 2, 2011.

He had also been charged with the robbery of €661,125 from An Post, West Street, Drogheda on August 2nd, 2011.

The prosecution had alleged Gill was one of a group of five who were involved in holding the family hostage in their own home before moving them to a shed about a 90-minute drive away.

He pleaded not guilty to both charges.

Today, Dean Kelly BL, defending, told Judge Sheahan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court he felt the jury should not proceed with deliberations.

He said the seven men and five women had been “wholly compromised” and could not proceed in a way that could be described as fair or lawful.

Mr Kelly said a male juror had written that he felt it was his duty to inform the court that he suspected jurors were “getting information from people outside the jury.”

He spoke about overhearing two complete strangers talking about the case on a tram, and that he was “stressed out” and did not feel he could do jury duty again.

He felt jurors were using that information to make their decision.

Mr Kelly said if this were the case, jurors were acting in disobedience of their oaths.

“My client, Mr Gill cannot receive a fair trial before this jury,” he said.

“I cannot conceive of a way that, six months to a year from now, the DPP can stand over a conviction in the Court of Criminal Appeal.”

Vincent Heneghan BL, prosecuting, said the court had been very careful throughout the trial in “reminding them about the use of social media and so forth”.

He suggested that the judge ask the jury as a collective if they had been influenced, let the members retire to consider the question and come back with an answer.

However, Judge Sheahan said she could not possibly allow the case to proceed in circumstances when a matter of this seriousness had been raised.

She said it was inevitable that the jury had to be discharged.

Judge Sheahan said she accepted they were in “uncharted waters” and had “no road map.”

Mr Heneghan then said it was not suggested in any way that the jury had been “got at.”

The jury was then called back in, having been outside the court while legal submissions were made.

“Information of the utmost gravity has come to the court’s attention and on foot of receipt of the information, it is regrettable but inevitable that the case must come to an end,” the judge then told the jurors, before discharging them.

She said the case may go before another jury and reminded them not to discuss their deliberations with anybody.

During the trial, the prosecution had stated the couple were threatened with what they believed to be guns and were tied up with cable ties.

The defence argued Mr Gill was not identified as having been among the five and there was no direct forensic link between the accused and the locations involved.

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