Thursday 20 September 2018

Regency murder trial adjourned for three months as more time needed for enquiry into death of senior garda

It will come back before the three-judge, non-jury court on July 9

The Regency Hotel
The Regency Hotel

Andrew Phelan

THE trial of Regency Hotel gun murder accused Patrick Hutch has been delayed for another three months after a court heard more time was needed for an enquiry into the tragic death of the senior investigating garda.

The Special Criminal Court was told “considerable progress” had been made in the enquiry but 12 weeks was needed for the examination of evidence including “documentary material and electronic data.”

Det Supt Colm Fox was found dead at Ballymun Garda Station on February 10, while the trial was stalled over the disclosure by the prosecution of emails between four gardai.

The case was put back four weeks ago after notes “authored by” Det Sup Fox were handed in to the court.

Today, Presiding Judge, Mr Justice Tony Hunt granted a further adjournment for the case, which has now been running for 10 weeks. It will come back before the three-judge, non-jury court on July 9.

Mr Hutch (25) of Champions Avenue in the north inner city, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of David Byrne (34) at the Regency Hotel in Dublin on February 5, 2016.

He also denied possessing three AK47 assault rifles.

The shooting happened during a boxing weigh-in, when a man dressed as a woman and another wearing a flat cap, armed with handguns, followed by a “tactical team of three men disguised as gardai with assault rifles, stormed the hotel.

It was the prosecution's case that Mr Hutch was the man dressed as a woman and that he did not shoot Mr Byrne but was part of a "shared intention" to commit the offence.

This morning, Prosecutor Sean Gillane said he had mentioned on the last occasion that an enquiry was taking place into the overall circumstances “pertaining to the passing of the the late Det Supt Colm Fox” and how it related to this case.

“Considerable progress” had been made in relation to it and a number of themes had been established to examine different strands of the enquiry.

It involved an examination not just of documentary material, but electronic data and the taking of a number of witness statements.

It seemed that a report from that enquiry could take another three months and Mr Gillane said he thought Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, would be asking for the case to be listed in July. The court could then be given an update on the investigation.

Mr O’Higgins said he “heard what was being said” and recognised that a 12-week adjournment was “inevitable.”

After this morning, the defence would be writing to the State asking it to set out the parameters of the investgation, he said.

He sought liberty to reapply to the court if “maybe in six weeks time”, if the defence was not assured matters were proceeding as quickly as they could.

“We can’t resist the application,” he added.

Judge Tony Hunt told Mr O’Higgins that was “very realistic” and the defence had liberty to “come back to us at any time.”

He added that they “may be coming back to a differently constituted court.”

“Who knows what the next move is,” Mr O’Higgins said.

Insofar as a a lengthy adjournment might or might not have an effect on the case, that might be seen as  matter “to be addressed down the line,” he said.

It was a case where the credibility of a witness was a live issue and there was material that the defence “probably should have had before” legal argument began.

Mr O’Higgins said he was “just flagging” that there was a live issue.

After the death of Det Supt Fox, his official firearm was recovered at the scene, foul play was not suspected and it was treated as a personal tragedy.

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