Thursday 23 November 2017

Supreme Court dismisses further appeal from murderer who killed innocent Shane Geoghegan

Shane Geoghegan
Shane Geoghegan

Aodhan O'Faolain

The Supreme Court has dismissed, by a six to one majority, a further appeal by a man against his conviction for the murder of rugby player Shane Geoghegan in a case of mistaken identity.

The appeal by Barry Doyle raised important issues concerning the right of access to a solicitor.

All the judges agreed a there is a right of reasonable access to a solicitor but, in significant judgments, a majority agreed there is no constitutional right to have a solicitor present during detention and questioning.

Six of the judges dismissed the appeal but on different bases.

Barry Doyle
Barry Doyle

Mr Justice Peter Charleton, in a judgment endorsed by a majority, held the Constitution should be interpreted as requiring and guaranteeing access to a lawyer but the Constitution does not require more, and, in particular, does not require a lawyer be present during detention and questioning.

Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley reserved her position on the constitutional right issue to a more appropriate case.

While, Mr Justice John MacMenamim held the Constitution, in principle, requires in future a lawyer be present for the interrogation but, applying principles set out in another case, he held Doyle's admission of killing Mr Geoghegan would not be excluded.

In a detailed dissenting judgment, Mr Justice William McKechnie said he believed it was of "fundamental importance" , in order to fully protect and vindicate the rights of a suspect, it is necessary there be a solicitor present during garda interrogation.

Doyle (29), of Portland Row, Dublin, was jailed for life in 2012 for the murder of Mr Geoghegan in Limerick on November 9th 2008.

Doyle was brought from Dublin by a Limerick criminal gang to kill a rival criminal but instead, he shot dead Mr Geoghegan in a case of mistaken identity. Doyle alleged gardaí induced an admission of the murder from him in his 15th interview with them.

The Court of Appeal found Doyle knew what he was doing when he made the admission. That court also said it was Doyle's solicitor who approached gardaí with an offer that Doyle would say he killed Shane Geoghegan if gardaí agreed to release his girlfriend, the mother of his daughter, from custody.

Doyle secured a further appeal before a seven judge Supreme Court after it determined he had raised three points of law of general public importance.

Shane Geoghegan
Shane Geoghegan

One of those points was whether Doyle, in the circumstances of his case, was entitled to consult with a solicitor, and have a solicitor present, during the 15th interview during which the admission was allegedly made.

That point raised the important issue whether the right to have a solicitor present during questioning is a matter of right of the detained person, or a matter of concession by the Garda.

In her judgment, the Chief Justice, Ms Justice Susan Denham, said it was recognised more than 20 years ago there is a constitutional right of "reasonable access" to a solicitor.

The constitutional right is of access to a lawyer, not of the presence of a lawyer during an interview, she held.

The protection of a trial in due course of law is not confined to the trial in court but also applies to pre-trial detention and questioning, she said. Not all rights guaranteed for the courtroom apply to pre-trial detention and questioning, she added. A solicitor, for example, was not permitted have regular updates of an investigation's progress.

The concept of basic fairness of process applies from the time of arrest, she said.  The late Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman had, in another case, previously pointed out the need for regulation by the legislature and State concerning the right of access to a solicitor before questioning, she noted.

She was satisfied the constitutional right of access to legal advice was met by the attendance of Doyle with his solicitor before the interview and by the solicitor's phone call that interrupted the interview.

Online Editors

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