Crime gang caught with details of murder jury
Gardai arrest imprisoned boss's girlfriend and man in bed with her
Published 07/03/2010 | 05:00
The use of juries in gangland trials could end after gardai found a list containing the names, addresses and even telephone numbers of an entire jury, which sat on a murder trial.
The list, along with an entire set of garda documents relating to the case and other intelligence files, was found during a raid on a house last Tuesday night in south inner-city Dublin.
Gardai arrested the girlfriend of an imprisoned, major gangland figure and another man, who was in bed with her.
The names of those arrested, and the trial -- which did not result in a conviction -- cannot be revealed for legal reasons.
A major investigation has started into how the gang came to get hold of the jury details, which would have allowed them to intimidate the jury members and their families.
Among the other documents gardai found were intelligence files, which, it is believed, were stolen by a petty thief in 2008 from an unmarked garda car parked outside Blackrock garda station.
These files gave details of members of the gang led by "Fat" Freddie Thompson, who has been at the centre of the Crumlin-Drimnagh feud, which has claimed 16 lives over the past 10 years.
At the height of the killing in 2008, Thompson's gang rented apartments in the Dun Laoghaire, Sandyford and Foxrock areas in an attempt to evade detection by their enemies.
When gardai discovered the file was missing they visited each of the Thompson gang members at the addresses to warn them that their safety was endangered. At least one of the gang threatened to sue the Garda Siochana over the loss of the file. The gang eventually all moved to other addresses.
Threatening witnesses and suspected tampering with juries led Justice Minister Dermot Ahern to bring forward his anti-gang legislation last year in the Criminal Justice Amendment Act.
As well as providing for the new offence of directing a criminal gang, it included provision for criminal trials to be heard before the non-jury Special Criminal Court. Both measures had been strongly advocated by this newspaper as gangland violence has escalated to record levels.
Introducing the legislation in the Dail last July, the minister said that while it was a "big step" to use the non-jury Special Criminal Court, "a failure to take that decision would be to shirk our over-riding responsibility to ensure that the rule of law prevails".
The minister pointed out that the "threat to witnesses is already clearly accepted".
Gangs were prepared to go further than intimidation and, until the murder in Limerick of Roy Collins, whose father Steve Collins had given evidence in a criminal trial, Mr Ahern said he had resisted calls for sterner legislation, adding: "But I cannot stand by and let our criminal justice system be undermined."
He said the measures were not taken lightly "but we must bring every available legal instrument to the fight against organised crime".
The ease with which the Dublin gang (not the Thompson gang) was able to acquire a full list of jury members with all their details will also call into question the new legislation brought in at the start of last year which allows judges to permit jurors to return to their homes at night or at weekends during the period when they are deliberating a verdict.