Saturday 7 December 2019

'Unprecedented situation' in Peter Butterly murder trial as two counsel assigned to chief prosecution witness

Peter Butterly
Peter Butterly

Diarmaid Mac Dermott

The Special Criminal Court has in "an unprecedented situation" ordered that two counsel be assigned to the chief prosecution witness during his cross examination in the trial of three men accused of the murder of dissident republican Peter Butterly last year.

The court ordered that the counsel be assigned to advise David Cullen on the issue of legal professional privilege and that excerpts from the transcript of the evidence Cullen has already given during the trial be made available to his lawyers.

Last week the court allowed Cullen who was in the middle of cross examination after giving his evidence in chief to consult with a solicitor. His solicitor Mr Peter Connolly applied to the court following the consultation for a senior and junior counsel to be assigned to Mr Cullen.

Read more: Members of armed garda unit give evidence in Peter Butterly murder trial

Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy, presiding at the three judge non jury court, said that the court was dealing with "an unprecedented situation".

"The court has no guidance from the superior courts in relation to this ussue," she added.

The judge said that in a situation where the issue of legal professional privilege had now been raised the court would order that a senior and junior counsel should be assigned to Cullen and that extracts from the transcript relating to Cullen's alleged waiver of privilege during his evidence should be made available to his legal team.

Lawyers for the three accused objected to the transcript being provided to Cullen's legal team.

David Cullen (30)  told the  court last week that he wanted to speak to his solicitor before answering any more questions from the defence lawyers. The court at first refused, but then acceded to his request.

Read more: Gardai giving evidence in Peter Butterly murder trial exit court through custody area

 It was the thirty second day of the trial of  three Dublin men for the murder of Mr Peter Butterly, who was shot dead in the car park of the Huntsman Inn, Gormanston, Co Meath on March 6 2013.

Dean Evans (24), of Grange Park Rise, Raheny, Edward McGrath (33) of Land Dale Lawns, Springfield Tallaght and Sharif Kelly (44), of Pinewood Green Road, Balbriggan have pleaded not guilty to murdering the 35-year-old father of two.

Mr Evans and Mr McGrath have also pleaded not guilty to firearm offences on the same occasion.

Cullen, with a last address in Balbriggan, was allegedly ‘part of the murder plan himself’ but turned State's witness earlier this year.

Cullen has  said in evidence that on Sunday March 3rd,  2013, he met Sharif Kelly and a man identified as MD, who asked him if he would be around during the week ‘to pick something up’. He said he later learned ‘it was a gun I had to pick up’.

He said MD and Sharif Kelly called to his apartment with Edward McGrath on the evening before the killing. It became clear what the gun was to be used for, he said.

Read more: Public permitted to enter the Special Criminal Court this morning for the second day running

Cullen said that his job was to pick up the gun outside Gormanston College the following day and bury it in the college grounds.

He said that, on the morning of the shooting, he was asked by MD if two people could come up to his apartment. The two men were Edward McGrath and Dean Evans, he said.

He said Edward McGrath brought a bag containing a gun, black wig, baseball caps and gloves.

He claimed that Dean Evans gave him a sock containing 12 rounds of ammunition, but that the gun was already loaded.

He said that he and Mr Kelly went to the entrance of Gormanston College, that he got out and that Mr Kelly continued down the road to pick up Dean Evans and Edward McGrath.

Cullen said that he was standing alone at the college entrance for about five minutes when a car slowed down, beeped the horn and a gun was thrown out the window. He said he crossed the road to pick it up and was arrested.

Cullen was jailed for three-and-a-half years in July, having pleaded guilty to the unlawful possession of a semi-automatic pistol at the Huntsman Inn that day.

His plea was accepted by the DPP and a nolle prosequi – a decision not to proceed - was entered on the count of murder.

The court has heard that Mr Butterly had been ‘lured’ to the Huntsman Inn’s car park by a man not before the court.

A car entered and shots were fired at Mr Butterly, who attempted to flee. He was found collapsed in a corner of the car park and was pronounced dead a short time later.

The trial is continuing before Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy, Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan and Judge Cormac Dunne.

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