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PJ Browne: Dead Dunne's case exposes our farcical justice system

Can anybody tell me why it takes nearly seven years to finalise a criminal prosecution against one of Ireland's biggest criminals?

The length of time it took to bring a drugs case against slain gangster Eamonn Dunne to sentencing is quite incredible. The more so because The Don initially pleaded guilty.

The case was struck out in court this week, almost seven years since it began.

In June 2002, Dunne was arrested in Finglas and he was charged with the sale and supply of drugs namely cocaine, ephedrine and ecstasy. In 2003 he pleaded guilty to the crime.

He decided to change his plea to not guilty, but the court, correctly, did not accept this change of heart.

The Don then went to the High Court and lost. He appealed again to the Supreme Court and was unsuccessful once more. The case was then bounced back to the original Circuit Criminal Court where it was before Judge Katherine Delahunt, following further adjournment, this week, almost seven years since the original charge.

Too late for Mr Dunne, who had his own appointment with fate last month. A barrister told the judge that The Don was deceased and the charge was accordingly struck out.

But another seven-year-old case against Dunne is still officially before the courts.

In 2002 he was charged with false imprisonment having been accused of binding a man with ropes and putting him in the boot of a car.

The gardai sought a remand in custody as this crime was committed while on bail for a previous crime -- no joy there, of course.

The kidnap case is still pending, despite Dunne being now being resident in Dardistown Cemetery.

One must ask if the trial had taken place earlier or even if he was remanded in custody rather than granted bail how many lives could have been saved? Such a decision may even have spared Dunne's life.

Another question to be asked is was Dunne on free legal aid for all these cases? On can assume that he was granted legal aid as he did receive it in other cases. What has this cost you, the taxpayer?

In my experience Dunne's behaviour is a constant in our courts. Frankly, it is an abuse of process by thugs like Dunne.

People like Dunne are granted bail for serious criminal activity with free legal aid.


All this, while people who fail to pay mortgage or credit card bills, or get a television licence have been and are still being sent to prison. Prison is a place for serious criminals, not for petty offenders.

In my long career attending courts if the judge in the District Court grants legal aid this decision is not further questioned by the judges of the superior courts.

I have also heard gardai oppose bail and legal aid and give reasons for their opposition, but no notice was taken of their opposition. This was all in cases of serious crime.

Yet the people that I earlier mentioned are sent to prison.

All this leads to the farcical situation where men like Dunne, suspected of more than a dozen killings, still have seven-year-old cases pending three weeks after they themselves have been murdered.

There must be a better way of processing their cases.

PJ Browne is a former detective superintendent who has over 35 years policing serious crime