Thursday 23 November 2017

An 11th-hour challenge of evidence is extraordinary development

The court did not hear any explanation as to what might have prompted the Dowdalls to deny mentioning Mr Adams, Ms McDonald or the IRA. Stock photo
The court did not hear any explanation as to what might have prompted the Dowdalls to deny mentioning Mr Adams, Ms McDonald or the IRA. Stock photo

Andrew Phelan

Former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall's decision to challenge parts of the case against him at the 11th hour, after a full sentencing hearing, was an extraordinary development.

Both Dowdall and his father Patrick had pleaded guilty and the facts of the case were not contradicted during a thorough sentencing hearing.

All that was left for the Special Criminal Court to do was to pass sentence. In a highly unusual move, Dowdall and his father are now taking issue with evidence that the prosecution maintains is "front and centre" of the State's case.

Suddenly, at this late stage, Dowdall is denying, among other things, any reference to him being a member of IRA or that he was friends with Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald.

The disputed evidence was already in the book of evidence. The accused, who have been in custody since they were arrested, had presumably read this book since it was served long before the hearing.

It is difficult to imagine there were any surprises for the Dowdalls in the evidence. If there were, they had ample opportunity to instruct their lawyers. So why raise this now?

The court did not hear any explanation as to what might have prompted the Dowdalls to deny mentioning Mr Adams, Ms McDonald or the IRA.

Further submissions are made to the court later this month.

Irish Independent

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