Monday 27 January 2020

Supreme Court orders retrial of Brian Rattigan for murder

Brian Rattgan
Brian Rattgan

Tim Healy

The Supreme Court has directed a retrial in the case of Brian Rattigan who last year won his appeal against his conviction for the murder of a man in Dublin more than 17 years ago.

While Rattigan’s conviction for the murder of Declan Gavin in 2001 was quashed as a result of winning his Supreme Court appeal, he remains jailed for another offence of drug dealing while in custody.

Mr Gavin (21) died after he was stabbed outside Abrakebabra in Crumlin Shopping Centre, Dublin, on August 25th 2001.

The DPP, repesented by Pauline Walley SC, today sought a retrial on the murder charge. She said the DPP had conducted a genuine review of the matter and considered there should be a retrial for this serious crime.

The retrial application was opposed by Brendan Grehan SC, for Rattigan, on grounds including lapse of time since the death of Mr Gavin and alleged prejudicial publicity.

Giving the court’s ruling, the Chief Justice said the parties agreed the test for a retrial is whether it is in the interests of justice that a retrial be ordered.

In that regard, the DPP maintained the matter concerns a serious criminal offence, murder, and that it is in the public interest that the matter is retried and decided while Mr Rattigan argued there were several factors against retrial, he said.

Mr Justice Clarke said the most common reason not to permit a retrial was not present in this case.

A retrial should not be permitted if it is intended to allow the prosecution mend its hand after being unable to prove its case at the original trial but that was not an issue here, he said.

He said the court would emphasise the trial judge is obliged to ensure a fair trial, that all procedural requirements are complied with and, if there is a conviction or sentence, all relevant matters would be considered.

The court should only refuse a retrial if there was a clear case there could not be a fair trial for reasons such as delay or prejudicial pretrial publicity, he said.

The court had considered the arguments on those grounds but had concluded it will direct a retrial and remit the matter to the Criminal Courts of Justice for that purpose, he directed.

The retrial application arose after, by a three to two majority last December, the Supreme Court allowed the appeal by Rattigan, with an address at Cooley Road, Drimnagh, Dublin, against his conviction for the murder of Mr Gavin.

The majority court found some closing comments made by the trial judge, Mr Justice George Birmingham, to the jury involved the trial judge unintentionally engaging in "a piece of advocacy in favour of the prosecution".

The comments suggested the defence had advanced a defence of unusual coincidence, which it had not, and then subjected that unadvanced defence to "sustained sarcasm", Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley said.

Rattigan was jailed for life in 2009 after a majority jury convicted him of Mr Gavin's murder. He was later found guilty of organising a €1m heroin deal from the prison cell where he was serving the life sentence.

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