Wednesday 22 May 2019

Charges dropped against man in Alan Ryan murder probe

Alan Ryan
Alan Ryan

By Declan Brennan

A man accused of withholding information in relation to to the murder of Real IRA boss Alan Ryan has had all charges against him dropped.

The State has withdrawn charges against Thomas Hunt, who was alleged to have bought a car which was later used as the get away car in the murder of Ryan on September 3 2012. He was arrested the following month and denied buying the car.

Hunt (40) of Donnycarney, Dublin had pleaded not guilty to withholding information, on dates between September 3 and October 23, 2012, which might have been of material assistance in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of a person for a serious offence, the murder of Alan Ryan.

The State entered a nolle prosequi in the case after Judge Catherine Murphy ruled that telephone records held on a mainframe computer could not be relied on as evidence because there was no evidence that the computer was operating correctly at the relevant time.

The trial heard that it was the State’s case that Mr Hunt was the owner of a mobile telephone at the time that it was used to buy the car later used in the murder.

In her ruling at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court Judge Murphy said there must be evidence of the function and operation of the main frame computer, on which the call records are held.

She said: “This must include information that the computer was operating correctly at the relevant time”.

The ruling relies on a 1992 judgement from the UK appeal courts which held that the prosecution must provide evidence of the function and operation of the mainframe computer used to store the records.

The Cochrane ruling, which has been upheld by the Irish courts, noted that “the problem of proving transactions of this type must now arise frequently and it should be possible…to devise a standard form of evidence to deal with it.”

Judge Murphy had earlier ruled that the evidence of the records held on the Meteor mainframe server was not admissible under the 1992 Criminal Evidence Act because the act does not cover automatically held records.

The evidence in this case was that the records were held, automatically, on the Meteor mainframe server.

The prosecution then submitted to the Court that the records could be admitted under Common Law. Judge Murphy ruled against them on this and noted that the UK judgement states there must be evidence “that the computer was operating correctly at the relevant time”.

The UK judgement states that the prosecution must provide “authoritative evidence about the operation of the relevant machines”

Judge Murphy noted that an engineer from Meteor gave evidence for the prosecution that he had  working knowledge of the Meteor computer system but not of the mainframe computer from on the records were held.

After four days of legal argument in the absence of the jury Judge Murphy discharged the jury and informed it that the State had decided not to proceed with the case.

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