Thursday 19 April 2018

Special Criminal Court rules the arrest of a man accused of IRA membership was unlawful

The Special Criminal Court
The Special Criminal Court

Daniel Hickey

The arrest of a man accused of IRA membership has been ruled unlawful by the Special Criminal Court.

Kevin Power (38), with an address at Railway Street, Passage West, County Cork, has pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation within the State styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Óglaigh na hÉireann, otherwise the IRA on December 19th, 2011.

Today, the three-judge, non-jury court heard evidence and submissions during a voir dire, a trial within a trial, to determine legal issues relating to the arrest and detention of the accused man.

Hugh Hartnett SC, for Mr Power, challenged the arrest of his client under Section 30 (A) of the Offences Against the State Act (Amendment Act 1998) Act 1939.

This section states that a person who is arrested on suspicion of having committed an offence under the Act, and who is subsequently released without charge, cannot be arrested again for the same offence without a warrant.

Earlier, the court heard evidence from Detective Sergeant Patrick Murphy, of Anglesea St Garda station, Cork, that Mr Power had been arrested on January 19th, 2011, on suspicion of IRA membership and was released without charge.

The detective told the court that he arrested Mr Power on December 19th of the same year, also on suspicion of IRA membership.

Mr Hartnett argued that the second arrest was without a warrant and therefore unlawful.

Previously, the court heard evidence that on May 19th, 2011, telephone calls warning of explosive devices at UCC and the Rock of Cashel were made to the Samaritans and to Cork 96FM.

Evidence that an army-training grenade was found in a carpark at UCC was also presented to the court.

Returning judgement today, Mr Justice Paul Butler said that it was "noteworthy" there was no evidence connecting or even suspecting the accused man of being connected with the "hoax bombs".

"We have the bald evidence that [Det Sgt Murphy] suspected he was a member of an unlawful organisation," the judge said. "That is not in any way different from the state of affairs when he was arrested on January 19th of the same year."

"In those circumstances," Mr Justice Butler said, "we deem the arrest unlawful on the facts of this case."

Prosecuting counsel Vincent Heneghan BL told the judges that he will take instructions before the court sits again tomorrow.

Earlier, Sergeant Brendan McKenna, of Togher Garda station, told Mr Heneghan that he was aware bomb threats had been reported to the control room at Anglesea St Garda station on May 19th, 2011.

Garda Aidan O'Connor, also of Togher Garda station, told the court that during a search of a carpark at UCC he found an army-training grenade inside a plastic bag.

Captain Steven Walsh, a mechanical engineer with the Irish defence forces, told the court that he disassembled the grenade and rendered it safe after having ordered the adjacent student accommodation to be evacuated.

The court also heard evidence from Colin Moore, a radio producer with Cork 96FM, who told the court that on May 20th, 2011, a man called the station, saying that he was a member of the IRA and that there were bombs planted in the grounds of UCC and also in City Hall, Debenhams and Marks and Spencers.

The caller said it was not a hoax and that he had called the Samaritans two days before but was not taken seriously, the court heard. 

Mr Moore told the court that he could not say "for definite" what the caller's accent was.

"I thought it was from Munster. It wasn't Dublin or Belfast," the witness said.

The trial continues.

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