Sunday 15 September 2019

Freddie Thompson's legal team seek to have CCTV footage thrown out of murder trial

Claim it was illegally created and breaches his constitutional right to privacy

Freddie Thompson and (inset) David Douglas
Freddie Thompson and (inset) David Douglas
Eimear Cotter

Eimear Cotter

FREDDIE Thompson’s legal team is seeking to have CCTV footage thrown out of his trial for the murder of David Douglas because they claim it was illegally created and breaches his constitutional right to privacy.

Freddie Thompson (37) is on trial before the Special Criminal Court for the murder of David Douglas (55), who was shot six times in his partner’s shop at Bridgefoot Street, Dublin 8 on July 1, 2016.

Mr Thompson, with an address at Loreto Road, Maryland, Dublin 8, has denied the charge.

It is the State’s case that Mr Thompson provided logistical support in the planning and execution of a murder and was the driver of one of two ‘spotter’ vehicles.

Two detectives previously told the Special Criminal Court that they had identified Freddie Thompson in clips of CCTV taken in the hours prior to the murder of David Douglas.

Detective Sergeant Adrian Whitelaw and Detective Garda Seamus O’Donovan both positively identified Mr Thompson as the driver of a silver Ford Fiesta, at 10.48am at Merton Avenue and later at 3.53pm on Donore Avenue on the day in question.

The officers have also identified Mr Thompson as the man in a third clip of CCTV at the Guild of the Little Flower on Dublin’s Meath Street, one minute before Mr Douglas was killed. Mr Thompson has accepted this is him.

Sgt Whitelaw further identified Mr Thompson from CCTV footage at Little Caeser’s on Balfe Street later that night, where he met up with Mr C and Mr F, both of whom are suspects in the case.

Defence lawyer Michael O’Higgins said the Data Protection Act provides for a process of registering CCTV systems, and failure to do so is a criminal offence, punishable by a monetary fine. He said the operators of CCTV must also alert people to the fact that recording is in place, and indicate the uses to which recording can be put.

The court has already heard from nearly 30 operators of the CCTV footage used in this trial, and the vast majority of them were unaware they should be registered with the Data Protection Commissioner.

As a result, Mr O’Higgins added, gardai are “harvesting material unlawfully obtained”. He argued that the evidence had been “illegally created”, and the CCTV was in breach of a citizen's, and therefore his client’s, right to privacy.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt put it to Mr O’Higgins said that the CCTV had not been unlawfully obtained by An Garda Siochana.

Mr O’Higgins said the law, in relation to the registration of CCTV, was not being complied with by CCTV operators and gardai were “getting the benefit of illegally created evidence”. He claimed that gardai must be aware of this.

Mr O’Higgins also argued that any individual’s movements, particularly in an urban area, can be readily tracked by linking CCTV cameras.

“This gives rise to an issue that it’s an invasion into one’s privacy. By walking from a to b, and subsequently looking at cameras, you can find out what a person did, where they were, who they spoke to, and it is all recorded”, said Mr O’Higgins.

Judge Hunt responded, saying that a person’s right to privacy can “never be used to cover the commission of a crime”.

However, Mr O’Higgins said this area is “more complex than it first appears”.

Mr O’Higgins accepted that there were three competing rights in this matter. A person’s right to privacy, which is not an absolute right, together with the rights of a property owner to protect their premises and the right of An Garda Siochana to gather evidence which would be crucial to an investigation.

Mr O’Higgins will continue to make his submissions this afternoon.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge Flann Brennan.

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