Wednesday 25 April 2018

Chief Justice queries if drug dealer John Gilligan has served full sentence

John Gilligan
John Gilligan
Chief Justice Susan Denham
John Gilligan walks free from Portlaoise prison last month

THE Supreme Court has asked for clarification over whether convicted drug dealer John Gilligan has served sentences imposed on him for having mobile phones while in prison.

The court also wants to know if he has has any appeal pending against those sentences.

After some confusion yesterday as to whether the recently released Gilligan has served those sentences of six and eight months, and about the current status of appeals brought by him against those sentences, Chief Justice Susan Denham asked lawyers for the DPP and Gilligan to clarify those issues before the court next week.

The issues arose when the five-judge court was dealing with costs issues arising from its judgment last month dismissing Gilligan's challenge to a law under which consecutive sentences of six and eight months were imposed on him by the District Court for having mobile phones in prison.

Gilligan had initiated appeals against those sentences but issues have arisen whether those appeals had been withdrawn or whether a stay was imposed on them pending the Supreme Court's decision on the constitutional issue.

David Hardiman SC, for the State, said he understood there was no stay on the appeal.

The DPP had instead applied a "voluntary restraint" and not forced the appeal on while the Supreme Court was dealing with the constitutional case, counsel said.  He also understood Gilligan had withdrawn his appeal after the Supreme Court hearing had finished.

Mr Justice Nial Fennelly remarked that appeared to suggest the sentences at issue were not served.

Patrick Leonard SC, for Gilligan, said he had come into the case yesterday just to deal with costs issues but he understood both District Court sentences had been served by last month when Gilligan was released.

While there had been a stay on the sentences pending appeal, he understood what had happened was an early listing of an appeal and his understanding now was the sentences had been served, counsel said.

Having discussed the matter with the other members of the court, the Chief Justice said the court considered the issues of the sentences and appeal should be clarified and it would deal with those matters, and costs issues, next week.

In the Supreme Court, Gilligan challenged the constitutionality of Section 13 of the Criminal Law Act 1976 which provides a sentence imposed on a convicted person for another offence committed by them while in prison should be consecutive.

Gilligan argued the requirement the sentence be consecutive was an impermissible encroachment on the sentencing powers of the judiciary but the Supreme Court rejected his arguments that it breached the doctrine of the constitutional separation of powers between the legislature, executive and judiciary.

Gilligan was initially jailed in 2001 for 28 years for drug trafficking but that term was reduced on appeal to 20 years.

He  later received a consecutive two year term for assaulting a prison officer. While serving that term, he was convicted on mobile phone charges and jailed for six and eight months on those charges. His release last month arose from an entitlement to remission.

Gilligan was not in court yesterday.


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