Paul Williams: 'Hutch faces another kind of life sentence as Kinahan thugs seek more bloody revenge'
The collapse of the prosecution case against Patrick Hutch for the alleged murder of drug dealer David Byrne undoubtedly represents a major setback for the gardaí who have been battling valiantly to end the gangland feud.
The decision by the DPP to enter a nolle prosequi was the denouement of one particular chapter in this story of betrayal, hatred and murder which has so far claimed up to 18 lives.
Patrick Hutch is a wholly innocent citizen in the eyes of the law - but not, unfortunately, in the eyes of the Kinahan cartel.
And the cold, brutal truth is that while Patrick Hutch is legally innocent of the murder of David Byrne, he left the Special Criminal Court with a hefty bounty suspected to be on his head.
He will be forced to spend every hour of his life looking over his shoulder for as long as this unprecedented gang war rages on.
In reality, he has been under sentence of death, like the rest of his family, since the day three years ago that a five-man hit team stormed the Regency Hotel and David Byrne was gunned down.
It was the murder of his brother Gary in Spain in September 2015 by former associates in the Kinahan cartel that kicked off this completely disproportionate bloodfest, which has claimed 18 lives, including two innocent men shot in error.
And despite what he may have been in life, David Byrne was still a human being - and no one deserves to be gunned down without mercy.
The anger and grief expressed by the victim's family, which compelled them to protest with placards demanding justice, is totally understandable.
But while members of the family placed their hopes of getting justice in the legitimate courts, the same cannot be said for Byrne's former friends and associates, the psychopathic thugs who have been responsible for 16 of those 18 murders.
The Kinahans can no longer try to claim they are merely seeking an eye for an eye - they have been engaged in what amounts to a deliberate attempt to wipe out an entire family.
The DPPs decision to abandon the case was the result of the tragic death on February 10 last year of Detective Superintendent Colm Fox, the lead investigation officer. Mr Fox had a long and distinguished service behind him when, for reasons no one will ever really understand, he took his own life.
It is understood he left correspondence behind including one in which he admitted being responsible for a "grave error of judgement".
This resulted in an immediate adjournment of the trial while a major investigation took place to establish what those words meant. My sources tell me nothing was found that was capable of confirming any serious error of judgement, but it did create a doubt - and someone can only be convicted if it is "beyond all reasonable doubt". The DPP was left with no choice but to discontinue the trial.
Mr Fox is one of the people on the very thin blue line who stood in the gap, honouring his oath to protect and serve the people of Ireland.
This unconscionable tragedy should serve as a reminder to everyone, especially the highest ranks of An Garda Síochána and their Government masters, of the sometimes overwhelming pressure placed on the shoulders of the few on that front line.
The release of Patrick Hutch has upped the ante in this ongoing blood feud: he and his father Patsy and uncle Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch are still the prime targets of the murderous Kinahan machine.
In the meantime, we should remember that if it wasn't for the likes of Colm Fox, whose investigations have prevented at least 50 more planned revenge hits, the body count in this gang war would be much higher.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please contact: Samaritans 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org; Aware 1800 80 48 48; Pieta House 1800 247 247 or email email@example.com
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