Monday 23 July 2018

Regency murder trial to continue after judges give green light to key prosecution evidence

The Regency Hotel
The Regency Hotel

Alan O'Keeffe and Conor Feehan

The trial of Patrick Hutch, accused of murdering David Byrne at the Regency Hotel almost two years ago, is set to continue on Monday after the Special Criminal Court ruled that the process of 'identifying him using photographic evidence' is admissible in the case.

Hutch’s defence team had made submissions to the three-judge court that the identification process involving two detective gardai was “sullied, and tainted”.

The photograph being used by the prosecution to identify Patrick Hutch as being at the scene was taken by a press photographer on the day of the shooting on February 5 2016.

It is the prosecution’s case that a figure dressed as a woman and seen fleeing the scene with a gun is Hutch (25) from Champions Avenue in Dublin 1.

Their case is not that he shot Mr Byrne but that he participated in the February 5, 2016 raid and shared intent to commit the crimes.

Hutch is pleading not guilty to the murder of Byrne (33). He also denies possessing three AK47 assault rifles in connection with the shooting.

His defence team questioned whether or not one of the detectives, Fergal O’Flaherty, looked at the photograph and named Hutch in the presence of the second detective, Jonathan Brady, and if that could therefore have influenced Det Garda Brady’s opinion on who the suspect was.

In the ruling on the matter today, Mr Jutsice Tony Hunt explained how the photograph that was to be examined by the two detectives was on a monitor in a room in Ballymun garda station, and that both Det gardai O’Flaherty and Brady were invited to look at it.

He said the three-judge panel was satisfied that both detectives had identified the person on the screen as Hutch, but had done so separately from each other and there was “no basis of contamination by nomination”.

He also said they were satisfied that Det Garda O’Flaherty had left the room without naming Hutch but having confirmed that he knew who one of the people on the screen was, and that Det Garda Brady then identified Hutch separately.

Mr Justice Hunt said in his conclusion that confusion could have been avoided by the making of a more comprehensive account of the identification process as it was made.

He also said the judges do not accept that Garda Michael Ryan, who showed the detectives the photograph, fabricated his account of events or augmented it from media reports.

“We are satisfied Gda Ryan has an accurate recollection of the viewing, and have no doubt he accurately described that the two were separated,” he said.

The ruling on the admissibility of the identification process means the murder trial will re-commence next Monday afternoon.

Patrick Hutch sat quietly in the court as he listened to Mr Justice Hunt’s hour-long ruling. Dressed in a light grey suit and an open-neck white shirt, he drank occasionally from a bottle of water.

The family of David Byrne was also present in the crowded courtroom.

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