Sunday 17 December 2017

Miscarriage of justice verdict sends new shockwaves through the system

Front page of the Irish Independent, Saturday December 11, 1971 with story about Una Lynskey
Front page of the Irish Independent, Saturday December 11, 1971 with story about Una Lynskey
Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

THE disappearance and murder of Una Lynskey in October 1971 shattered the small community of Ratoath, County Meath.

Less than a year later, two local men – Martin Conmey and Dick Donnelly – were tried, convicted and sent to jail for three years for her manslaughter.

A third suspect, Martin Kerrigan, was kidnapped and killed by the young woman's brothers Sean and James Lynskey and her cousin John Gaughan nine days after her body was discovered.

Donnelly later won his appeal against his conviction, but Martin Conmey's was upheld.

Conmey, a neighbour of Lynskey, embarked on a life-long campaign to clear his name, relying on new laws introduced in 1993 in response to the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four miscarriage of justice cases.

The evidence against Conmey was entirely circumstantial with no direct or forensic evidence linking him to the crime.

This is crucial as his alleged involvement in a joint enterprise was crucial to the establishment of any case against him.

The nub of the prosecution case against Conmey, and those arrested with him, was that they were in a car – thought to be Donnelly's – on the Porterstown Lane where Lynskey had got off a bus to walk home.

What Conmey did not know at the time of his original trial was that three key statements favourable to the defence in general – and Mr Conmey in particular – had been altered and suppressed by an "unknown person" connected to the prosecution.

These statements, the Court of Criminal Appeal found, were "radically inconsistent" with later statements of the same witnesses and with evidence given at the trial.

Compounding the injustice that the initial statements were not disclosed was the fact that Mr Conmey endured years trying to secure the relevant material, with more than 250 statements dis-appearing since the defence first asked for them in 1997.

The failure to disclose the material led to Mr Conmey's conviction being overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeal in 2010 and being declared a miscarriage of justice yesterday by the same court.

The State, already embroiled in a series of Garda controversies, now faces the prospect of paying damages to Mr Conmey.

While justice has been secured for Mr Conmey, the family of Una Lynskey are still without justice as no one has been successfully prosecuted for her murder.

Forty three years after her murder, the case of Una Lynskey is still sending shockwaves through her community – and the criminal justice system.

Irish Independent

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