Friday 6 December 2019

Murderer Nevin says trial mistake meant she wasn't able to challenge witness

Catherine Nevin
Catherine Nevin
Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

CONVICTED murderer Catherine Nevin says the Supreme Court needs to clarify a point of law that could affect the right to effective cross examination in "courts across the country".

In what could be her final bid for freedom, Mrs Nevin, who has served 14 years in jail for the murder of her publican husband Tom Nevin, claims she has raised a point of law of exceptional public importance.

The application has been robustly challenged by the State which says the latest legal action is without foundation and unsupported by authority.

In 2000 Mrs Nevin, known as "Black Widow," was jailed for life for murdering her husband Tom at their pub, Jack White's Inn, near Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow, on March 19, 1996.

She also received a seven-year sentence for soliciting three men – Gerry Heapes, William McClean and John Jones – to kill her husband.

The 61-year-old, who who has always denied any involvement in the murder – and alleged at her trial that her husband was a member of the IRA – lost an appeal against her conviction in 2003. She also failed to have her conviction deemed a miscarriage of justice in 2010.

Last year Mrs Nevin lost a bid to prevent evidence from her criminal trial being used in a civil action aimed at blocking her from inheriting any of her late husband's assets.

On Monday she will be at the Court of Criminal Appeal for the latest application.

If the three-judge court refuses her application, this will sound the effective death knell for her long-running bid to overturn her conviction.

Mrs Nevin claims she could not fully challenge the credibility of William McClean, a key prosecution witness at her trial, because she did not have access to a Suspect Antecedent History Form, a garda document containing information on Mr McClean. The form was given to Mrs Nevin as part of her failed miscarriage of justice case.

She now says that a rule governing the finality of answers to collateral questions in criminal trials should not have been invoked by the CCA.

The collateral finality rule holds that whatever a witness says regarding questions challenging his credibility will be taken as final and no further evidence can be adduced to contradict his answers.

Mrs Nevin has claimed in legal submissions that the rule should not apply when the facts were not available or not disclosed for her original trial.

"Courts across the country would benefit from a definitive pronouncement from the Supreme Court on the scope of cross examination as this is an issue that affects the efficient administration of justice," she said.

"Therefore it is of exceptional public importance."

The State has dismissed the application.

Irish Independent

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