MORE than a dozen further criminal prosecutions or convictions face a legal challenge as a result of a Supreme Court ruling on search warrants issued by gardai.
It follows the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeal yesterday to quash the convictions of three men who had been jailed for the tiger kidnapping of the family of a Securicor driver seven years ago.
A retrial has now been ordered for the three men.
They had previously been found guilty of falsely imprisoning Paul Richardson, his wife and their two sons on March 13 and 14, 2005, and of robbing €2.28m in cash.
The search warrant ruling has already resulted in the collapse of a number of other trials and several convictions in the Special Criminal Court being overturned. A further raft of criminal cases are also expected to be affected by the ruling last February.
The Supreme Court ruled that search warrants issued by a garda superintendent were defective and repugnant to the Constitution because they had not been issued by an independent person.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said yesterday that legislation was being drafted as a priority and a bill was expected to be published shortly and enacted before the summer recess.
He said the bill would mean that an application for a warrant could be made in the district court and would limit the circumstances in which a superintendent, or officer of higher rank, might authorise a warrant in circumstances where a judge was not available.
He said the latter warrants could be issued only by a superintendent who was independent of the investigation and would exist only for a short time.
Mr Shatter pointed out that the proposed legislation could not be used retrospectively.
In yesterday's hearing, the Court of Criminal Appeal ruled that the three convicted men were entitled to rely on the findings of the Supreme Court and that the warrants were invalid.
The three, Jason Kavanagh (35), of Parlickstown Court in Mulhuddart, Dublin, Mark Farrelly (39), of Moatview Court in Priorswood, Dublin, and Christopher Corcoran (63), of Bayside Boulevard, Dublin, had been sentenced to 25, 25 and 12 years respectively in 2009.
All three had denied the charges.
As a preliminary point of their appeal, the men's lawyers claimed that the warrants were defective in light of the Supreme Court decision in the Damache case.
This was a reference to the case of Ali Charaf Damache, who was arrested as a suspect in an alleged conspiracy to murder Swedish cartoonist, Lars Vilks, over his drawing of the prophet Muhammad.
Mr Damache successfully challenged the validity of a warrant to search his home by a garda involved in investigating the matter.
The lawyers for the three men argued that they were entitled to avail of the Damache ruling and that Article 40.5 of the Constitution expressly provided that a person's home was inviolable and shall not be forcibly entered, except in accordance with the law.
The Court of Criminal Appeal, comprised of the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Susan Denham, Mr Justice Michael Moriarty and Mr Justice Gerard Hogan, agreed that the Supreme Court ruling in the Damache case applied to the three men.
The Chief Justice said the three were entitled to rely on the findings in the Damache case and that the warrants were invalid.
No other issues of the men's appeal were considered, she added.
All three will remain in custody pending the outcome of an application for bail to the Circuit Court when the new legal term begins early next month.