Tuesday 21 May 2019

Civil servant 'had a nosey' before giving tip-off about arrest, court told

Defendant Jonathan Lennon at court yesterday. Photo: Collins Courts
Defendant Jonathan Lennon at court yesterday. Photo: Collins Courts

Tom Tuite

A civil servant in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) gave a tip-off about the imminent arrest of a suspect for the murder of a dissident republican, a court has heard.

Father-of-three Jonathan Lennon (35), from Clonee, Dublin 15, has pleaded not guilty to breaking the Official Secrets Act in relation to criminal proceedings resulting from the murder of Peter Butterly.

The service officer has gone on trial at Dublin District Court and is accused of leaking sensitive information.

Judge John Hughes was told the defendant allegedly alerted a third party that another person, who was a suspect, was about to be arrested after having a "nosey" in his file at work.

Dissident republican Butterly was shot dead in view of students waiting for their school bus on the afternoon of March 6, 2013, outside The Huntsman Inn, Gormanston, Co Meath.

Mr Lennon is accused of four offences contrary to Section Four and 13 of the Official Secrets Act 1963, as amended by Section 48 of the Freedom of Information Act 1997.

It is alleged that on September 7, 2017, and the following day, at a place unknown in Dublin, without authorisation, he communicated with another person official information within the possession, custody or control of the DPP, a holder of public office, relating to the prosecution of individuals arising from the murder of Peter Butterly on March 6, 2013.

Opening the case for the prosecution Michael Delaney SC (with Dara Hayes BL) gave Judge Hughes the background to the charges.

He said Mr Lennon previously worked in the Department of Defence and was expected to take up a service officer's position in the office of the DPP, on Infirmary Road, in Dublin.

It was his role to collect, deliver and circulate files in the building.

There was a file relating to Butterly's murder from an internal feud in an organisation styling itself as the IRA.

Mr Delaney said it led to a number of trials and some men had been convicted of the murder and others of firearms offences or IRA membership.

Mr Lennon grew up in Corduff area of Blanchardstown and from playing football he knew one of the suspects, counsel said in his opening speech.

A search of Mr Lennon's home under warrant took place in September 2018, counsel said. Various items and memorabilia recovered there suggested the service officer "had republican sympathies".

Mr Delaney told Judge Hughes it would be fair to say that Mr Lennon was not well disposed to the man at the time of these offences.

On the morning of September 7, 2017, a directing officer in the DPP's office had generated a letter for senior counsel referring to five suspects. The letter mentioned them being brought before the Special Criminal Court the following morning, September 8, 2017.

It was the prosecution case that Mr Lennon read that letter on the afternoon of September 7, 2017, before it was brought to the post room to be dispatched to senior counsel.

Mr Delaney said it would be the State's case that Mr Lennon told other men about the forthcoming arrest and Special Criminal Court appearance of the suspect the following day.

When questioned by gardaí, Mr Lennon was shown footage and he accepted he opened the letter to have a have a look, "or to use his own language, 'to have a nosey'," counsel added. The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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