Saturday 16 November 2019

Jailed IRA member fails in bid for more time to appeal conviction

Brian Kavanagh

A MAN jailed for IRA membership after a garda investigation into money laundering involving the proceeds of the 2004 Northern Bank robbery has failed in an application for more time to lodge an appeal against his conviction.

In May 2010, Tom Hanlon (45) was jailed for three years and three months by the Special Criminal Court after it found him guilty of IRA membership on February 16, 2005.

Hanlon, with a last address at Pembroke Row, Passage West, Co Cork, had denied the charge.

Counsel for Hanlon, Michael Vallely BL, told the court he was seeking an enlargement of time application on foot of the Supreme Court ruling in the Damache case.

In February this year the Supreme Court declared that section 29 (1) of the Offences Against the State Act (as inserted by section 5 of the Criminal Law Act 1976) was repugnant to the Constitution, as it permitted a search of a person’s home on foot of a warrant not issued by an independent person.

The court found that Article 40.5 of the Constitution expressly provides that a person’s home is inviolable and shall not be forcibly entered except in accordance with the law.

The court made its ruling in the case of Ali Charaf Damache, where a search warrant had been issued by a member of the garda team investigating the matter. Section 29 has been routinely used in the past by gardaí to search the homes of suspects in terrorist cases.

Mr Vallely said the warrant used to search the home of Hanlon’s brother had been issued by a Chief Superintendant involved in the investigation of the case. He said that Hanlon had been arrested and interviewed on foot of this warrant, which was issued under a section now deemed unconstitutional.

He said that in the interests of justice the court should extend the time given to Hanlon to file his appeal.

Tom O’Connell SC, for the State, said it was self-evident that the applicant had previously made a decision not to appeal against his conviction, and that the matter had come before the court solely as a consequence of the decision of the Supreme Court in the Damache case.

He submitted that neither the constitutionality of Section 29 nor the validity of the warrant had been challenged during Hanlon’s trial.

Presiding judge Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman said the court did not consider the case suitable for such an application as the chronology of matters “tells its own tale” and no appeal was taken in the time limited for doing so.

He said the Special Criminal Court had justified the conviction on grounds that had nothing to do with the validity of the search warrant and the application appeared to be an attempt to “retrospectively piggy-back” on the ruling in the Damache case.

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