Sunday 18 August 2019

Civil servant who 'had a nosey' found guilty of leaking sensitive information relating to dissident murder investigation

Jonathan Lennon (35), from Clonee, Dublin 15, at court where he was found guilty of breaking the Official Secrets Act
PIC: Collins Courts
Jonathan Lennon (35), from Clonee, Dublin 15, at court where he was found guilty of breaking the Official Secrets Act PIC: Collins Courts
Jonathan Lennon (35) was found guilty of breaking the Official Secrets Act PIC: Collins Courts

Tom Tuite

A SERVICE officer working for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has been found guilty of disclosing sensitive information in connection with the arrest of a suspect in a dissident republican murder case.

Jonathan Lennon (35) from Clonee, Dublin 15, admitted having a “nosey” in the Peter Butterly murder file.

However, the civil servant denied breaking the Official Secrets Act in connection with criminal proceedings resulting from the 2013 murder of the dissident republican during an internal feud in the IRA.

Lennon, a father-of-three, who has been suspended from work, was accused of four counts of disclosing information without authorisation to three named men about the arrest of a suspect, on September 7, 2017 and the following day.

Jonathan Lennon (35) was found guilty of breaking the Official Secrets Act
PIC: Collins Courts
Jonathan Lennon (35) was found guilty of breaking the Official Secrets Act PIC: Collins Courts

Following an eight-day non-jury trial, at Dublin District Court, Judge John Hughes today convicted him on all charges. Sentencing was adjourned until June 6 for medical reports on Lennon to be obtained.

Delivering his verdict, Judge Hughes said he had carefully considered prosecution and defence submissions about circumstantial evidence. He also noted the 34 exhibits, CCTV evidence, voluminous text messages, items seized from Lennon’s home and car, eight memos of interviews with Lennon and the evidence of 20 State witnesses.

Lennon, who did not give evidence, showed no reaction to the verdict and his barrister asked for sentencing to be adjourned for a report into his mental health. The offence can carry a six-month sentence and a €127 fine per charge.

The trial heard one of the people Lennon had contacted and bought Irish Republican Prisoner Welfare Association badges from on September 7 was Damien Metcalfe.

Metcalfe, 33, with an address at Blackditch Road, Ballyfermot, Dublin, was jailed for two years and six months on Monday after he was convicted by the Special Criminal Court of IRA membership on a date in 2015.

Four other men are serving life sentences for the murder of Peter Butterly.

Lennon was investigated for leaking information after a suspect was arrested on September 8, 2017. Gardai believed the man had been tipped off beforehand because he was up, dressed and waiting for gardai when they came to his home in the early hours of the morning.

Mr Lennon was not well disposed to the suspect as a result of an unpaid €1500 loan, the district court trial was told.

Michael Delaney SC, prosecuting, asked the court to note the evidence of texts messages on September 7. On that date Mr Lennon sent messages about mentioning, revenge, Karma, and “good news”.

A letter about the Butterly case in the DPP's office had been drafted by a solicitor earlier that day.

He also sent one message about and having something “better” to give Metcalfe during a meeting with him in a graveyard in which he bought the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association badges.

Mr Lennon had admitted to gardai that he had a look in the case file. His messages over the two-day period contained details that were had not been made public, the court was told.

A solicitor in the DPP’s office, who prepared a letter to a senior counsel about the Butterly case, had said Lennon was among the staff collecting letters for dispatch that day.

CCTV evidence of his movements in work and footage of him looking at a letter before putting it away as his supervisor approached was shown during the trial.

Mr Seamus Clarke SC, for the defence, said the court must consider that the meeting in a graveyard was to buy badges and had been pre-arranged.

Discussions with another man via text messages the following day contained information that was no longer confidential as the suspect had appeared in court and it was in the media.

He said the court had to consider his client was waffling and spoofing.

The prosecution contended Lennon used phrases from the file such as “lured” to describe the murder of Butterly. The defence asked the judge to note that was already used in earlier newspaper reports about the fatal shooting.

The trial had heard that during a Garda interview he was asked about references he made to two men, who were later arrested. Mr Lennon told gardai, “If I had given them such information why did they not go on the run?”.

He claimed several members of staff in the DPP’s building had read files of cases and he was following suit but he had raised security concerns at work.

He disagreed that CCTV evidence showed him looking in the Butterly file and putting an envelope away as his supervisor approached. He said that was a coincidence and it could have been a personal letter that get sent to staff.

He denied ingratiating himself with the solicitor in the DPP’s office who had prepared the Butterly case file.

The court heard he did not like one of the suspects who owed him money. Mr Lennon grew up in Corduff area of Blanchardstown and from playing football he knew the suspect.

A search of Mr Lennon’s home under warrant took place in September 2018. Various items and memorabilia recovered there suggested the service officer “had republican sympathies” however when questioned he claimed it was out of an interest in political history.

Mr Lennon, who did not testify in the trial, had told investigating gardai he only spoke about matters already in the public domain.

He admitted to gardai he he read files about people or incidents known to him. He would have a quick read and put it away, “nothing sinister”. “If there was a file, I would pick it up and have a flick for pictures….proper nosey stuff,” he said.

He had taken photos of files if they shared the name of other people known to him..

The civil servant also saw some of the Butterly file but claimed he only read the introduction. He told one interviewing detective, “I had peek at a few pages”.

Mr Lennon began working in the DPP's office on January 3, 2017 and it was his role to collect, deliver and circulate files in the building.

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. Some men had been convicted of the murder and others of firearms offences or IRA membership.

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