Sunday 25 February 2018

Fully-clothed John Dundon has Shane Geoghegan murder trial adjourned

John Dundon
John Dundon

Brian Kavanagh

The trial of Limerick man John Dundon for the murder of Garryowen rugby player Shane Geoghegan has been adjourned until next month, when it will be heard before a new panel of judges.

The Special Criminal Court ruled that the trial of the 30-year-old, who on this occasion was brought to court fully clothed in a white Nike T-Shirt, blue jeans and balk boots, but still confined to a wheelchair, should not proceed until July 2, one week after the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a bid to have the trial deferred.

Evidence was also heard that Dundon had earlier in the week appeared before the non-jury court in a state of undress - wearing nothing but a pair of dark shorts – because he had on a number of occasions refused to wear clothes provided for him by prison authorities.

Three different judges will also preside at the trial, after a defence application to have the current court of presiding judge Mr Justice Paul Butler, Judge Alison Lindsay and Judge Flannan Brennan recuse itself from proceedings was acceded to.

Counsel for the State, Mr Tom O’Connell SC, this morning (Friday) told the court that he yesterday (Thursday) informed Chief Justice Susan Denham the prosecution intended to proceed with the case today.

Dundon’s defence team had sought an adjournment of the matter until 2014 in the interests of fairness, after they received thousands of pages of what was described as “thrown together” investigative material one month before the trial was due to commence.

The Special Criminal Court refused the application and a High Court bid to have this ruling overturned was rejected at the end of May. On Thursday the Supreme Court fixed a priority hearing for an appeal brought by Dundon against the High Court ruling. 

Mr O’Connell said the Chief Justice indicated that if the matter could not be agreed between the defence and the prosecution she would convene the Supreme Court and an order would be made putting a stay on the trial.

He said in order not to inconvenience the Supreme Court, the prosecution would consent to an adjournment in proceedings and propose that the matter be listed for trial on July 2, further requesting that it be afforded priority should the Supreme Court refuse the application.

Mr Martin O’Rourke SC, for Mr Dundon, told the court that the defence would “cautiously” agree to have the matter listed for trial on July 2, but with the proviso there were “definitely issues that would extend the trial time” beyond that originally estimated.

Mr Justice Butler said the court would put the mater back until July 2 as agreed.

With regard to the composition of the court, Mr O’Connell said the State believed it would be “unwise” for the court to proceed with the trial as presently constituted as there was a risk of potential bias.

Earlier in the week, the defence applied to have the trial heard before a different panel of judges, arguing there was a “clear and present perception of potential bias” because the same judges had in a previous trial ruled that the proposed chief prosecution witness in the forthcoming murder trial was a “credible and reliable” witness.

Mr O’Rourke told the court that it would be “very much preferable” that another judge who presided at an earlier overlapping trial also did not preside in the forthcoming Dundon murder trial.

Mr Justice Butler told Mr O’Rourke that the court was in danger of running out of judges, asking counsel: “Should we ask the Attorney General to appoint another judge especially for Mr Dundon?”

However, he said the court accepted it was desirable it did not preside at the trial as presently empanelled.

In relation to the other judge, Mr Justice Butler said the court would make him aware of the defence objections, and in the event he was assigned to preside at the case, an application could be made at that juncture.

Mr O’Connell said that Dundon had appeared before the court on the last occasion in a wheelchair and wearing nothing but a pair of shorts, and the prosecution wished to put on record its position on the matter.

On Tuesday Mr O’Rourke told the court that Dundon was without his own clothes having been discharged from hospital on Monday night and not returned to his own cell in Portlaoise Prison.

It was widely reported that Dundon was admitted to hospital on Monday night after going on hunger strike and refusing fluids.

Mr O’Rourke said that his client was not afforded an opportunity to obtain his own clothes and had refused to wear prison clothes made available to him by prison officers.

Taking to the stand, the Operational Governor of Portlaoise Prison, Mr Ultan Moran, told the court that from May 31 onwards John Dundon was offered a daily opportunity to be examined by the prison doctor, as he had informed the authorities he was going on hunger and thirst strike.

Witness said that on June 3 Dundon was found in a state of unresponsiveness by the prison duty nurse, and to ensure his safety he was dispatched to Portlaoise General Hospital, where he was placed on a drip.

He said Dundon later removed the drip himself and was discharged by a doctor back to prison.

Mr Moran said the following morning Dunon expressed his wish to attend court and requested particular items of clothing, which were provided.  He said Dundon then requested further items of clothing from the cell of his brother Desmond Dundon, which were also provided.

He said that when the prison van arrived to transport the accused man to court he then refused a number of requests to dress.

Mr Moran agreed with Mr O’Connell that Dundon’s own clothing was made available to him and that he was also offered a prison blanket.

Asked by Mr O’Rourke if he knew that in fact the only clothes available to Dundon upon his arrival at court were a prison-issue sweatshirt and tracksuit bottoms, Mr Moran repeated that the accused man was offered his own clothes on a number of occasions and refused to dress.

Mr Justice Butler said that although the court noted both what Dundon had alleged and what the prosecution alleged about the circumstances behind the accused man’s state of undress, it was not a matter for it to deal with.

John Dundon (29), with a last address at Hyde Road, Limerick,  is due to stand trial for the murder of 28-year-old Shane Geoghegan at Clonmore, Kilteragh, Dooradoyle, Limerick, on November 9th, 2008.

The case was brought before the non-jury Special Criminal Court in August last year as the Director of Public Prosecutions certified that the ordinary courts were inadequate to secure the administration of justice.

The trial is expected to last three to four weeks.

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