Saturday 19 January 2019

Regency murder trial delayed after defence request copies of gardai emails

The Regency Hotel
The Regency Hotel
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

The Regency Hotel gun murder trial has been delayed after the defence asked to be provided with copies of emails between four gardai.

The trial of Patrick Hutch at the non-jury Special Criminal Court was adjourned to next Tuesday, when the presiding judge said the case would continue unless there was some “very compelling reason.”

Judge Tony Hunt expressed his frustration with the delay, which comes after the three-judge court decided to admit into the trial key photographic evidence last Friday.

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

He also denies 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 is 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.

Last Friday, the court ruled that evidence by two gardai who said they identified Mr Hutch in a photo of the man dressed as a woman was admissible. This had been contested by the defence over the course of five days of legal argument.

Today, Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, said the prosecution had been processing for the last number of days his aplication for “certain disclosure matters.”

He had been happy to confirm to the prosecution that his request “not a standard” application and had arisen out of the “somewhat unusual” circumstances of the case.

“This is all very mysterious and elliptical,” Judge Hunt said.

Mr O’Higgins said an issue had arisen in relation to garda statements the court had heard, matters that were omitted and new statements that then came together and “hit every single note on the scale."

He had made a case in legal argument that the statements were a “blatant and obvious cog from one to the other”, which was not accepted by the prosecution.

He said he was looking for material in relation to “contact they may have had with regard to those statements.”

Prosecutor Sean Gillane SC said what the defence had requested had been “narrowed” from what was an almost impossible task and while it was manageable it would still take an amount of time.

“It’s extremely frustrating to come in here every day and expect to do a day’s work and for various reasons to be holed up in that room in there,” Judge Hunt said.

Mr O’Higgins said it had bee “unavoidable.”

The judge said he was not critcising anyone.

“It is what it is and what it is is terribly frustrating,” he said.

“What has been resquested is disclosure of email communications” between four gardai in the course of their investigations, Mr Gillane said.

Searches had initially resulted in emails that numbered into the thousands but the scope had been narrowed yesterday evening. It still involved thousands of emails that would have to be downloaded and printed off but it was going to be manageable.”

Mr Gillane said he could not tell the court or Mr O’Higgins if there was nothing relevant in that material until he saw it.

After considering the application to adjourn, Judge Hunt said the three judges were “not going to torment ourselves like this on a daily basis” and agreed.

“But we are putting a definite floor under this,” he said.

He adjourned the trial to Tuesday, February 13.

“The case goes on at that stage unless there is some very compelling reason why it shouldn’t,” he said.

He asked for a progress report this Friday.

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