Tuesday 22 October 2019

Byrne family entitled to ask the DPP why trial collapsed

Patrick Hutch
Patrick Hutch
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The family of slain feud victim David Byrne will be entitled to seek reasons from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for the collapse of the Regency murder trial.

Legislation introduced in 2017 allows victims of crime or their relatives to request reasons from the DPP for decisions not to prosecute cases.

While the Office of the DPP did not respond to queries on the issue, the Irish Independent has established the same provisions also apply in cases where a charge is withdrawn during the course of a trial.

Pressure has been mounting on authorities to give a fuller explanation for the collapse of the trial of murder accused Patrick Hutch on Wednesday.

Counsel for the DPP said it was "not in a position to lead evidence on a range of evidential issues" following the death of lead investigator Det Supt Colm Fox. What these "evidential issues" were was not fully explained, but it is believed they relate to defence concerns over the manner in which Mr Hutch was identified by gardaí as a suspect from photographs taken at the scene.

Following the dramatic development, Mr Byrne's family was distraught. His mother Sadie said they had been given "no reason, no explanation" for the decision.

Under the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017, victims, their relatives, or a solicitor acting on their behalf can seek reasons for non prosecution from the DPP.

However, reasons are not given in all cases where a request is made and it remains to be seen if the Byrne family will be given an explanation.

For example, the DPP cannot give reasons for decisions if the information would interfere in an ongoing criminal investigation, prejudice a future court case, put the personal safety of any person at risk, or put the security of the State at risk.

The investigation into Byrne's murder during the storming of a boxing weigh-in at the Regency in Dublin in February 2016 is still very much ongoing. While one of the gunmen has since died, gardaí are still pursuing several others who were involved.

Defence concerns over the manner in which two gardaí identified Mr Hutch as the gunman photographed wearing a woman's wig were set to be a central issue in the trial.

The two gardaí said they identified Mr Hutch independently of each other, but the defence suggested they were together. The prosecution denied there had been any collusion.

Defence lawyers also sought access to emails exchanged by four gardaí involved in the case to see if they had been in contact with each other regarding their statements.

The trial was adjourned in February last year following the tragic death of Det Supt Fox at Ballymun garda station. No foul play was suspected and it was treated as personal tragedy.

The trial was delayed while an investigation took place.

Irish Independent

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