Man walks free after IRA conviction is quashed on appeal
A MAN jailed for five years for IRA membership walked free from the Four Courts after his conviction was quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA).
Sean Farrell (28), of Kilfenora Road, Crumlin, Dublin, was convicted at the Special Criminal Court (SCC) in December 2012 of membership of the IRA on July 7, 2011. He had always maintained his innocence.
His appeal was supported by independent TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace, who were both present in court for the verdict.
Speaking afterwards, Ms Daly said she was delighted with the verdict. The TDs had visited Mr Farrell in prison and had serious concerns about his conviction.
In its decision quashing the conviction, the three-judge CCA found the SCC erred by failing to disregard evidence given on behalf of the prosecution by Garda Chief Superintendent Diarmuid O'Sullivan.
During the trial, Chief Supt O'Sullivan stated he had confidential information that Mr Farrell was involved in a "litany of incidents" as an "active member of the IRA over the last number of years."
Padraig O'Dwyer SC, with Mark Lynam Bl, for Mr Farrell, argued what was "manifestly prejudicial" evidence, given under cross-examination by Chief Supt O'Sullivan, should have been notified to the accused in advance of the trial They argued that Mr Farrell's conviction was unsafe.
The DPP opposed the appeal and argued the conviction should be left undisturbed.
Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, presiding, dismissed the DPP's application for a retrial, on the grounds that it would be oppressive.
The CCA noted a retrial would not take place for more than a year.
The CCA found "the salient fact" in the case was that no notice of the material the chief superintendent "was eager to put before the court" was given to the defence.
If such evidence was to be used, the defence should have been put on notice. This is one of the essentials of a fair trial, the CCA held.
The only way such material could be used is if the DPP sought to serve a statement of additional evidence and have the case adjourned.
The cross-examination of Chief Supt O'Sullivan, who gave opinion evidence based on confidential information that Mr Farrell was a member of an illegal organisation, went "far beyond" what was in his statement of evidence, the CCA added.