Dublin Appeal Court orders retrial of Gerard Mackin

An iol report notes that the Court of Criminal Appeal in Dublin has quashed the murder conviction of Belfast man Gerard Mackin and has ordered his retrial. From the iol report

Mackin was jailed for life after he was found guilty of the murder of Belfast taxi driver Eddie Burns in the city in 2007. It was the first time that anyone was convicted in a Dublin court for a murder committed in the north under a cross-border anti-terrorist law introduced in 1976.

But today Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, sitting with Mr Justice Declan Budd and Mr Justice Daniel O’Keeffe, ruled that evidence taken in a Belfast court had not been properly proved at the Special Criminal Court. [added emphasis]

The three judges of the Special Criminal Court travelled to Belfast in October 2008 to hear evidence taken by a Belfast judge, including the evidence of the chief prosecution witness, Mr Damien O’Neill, who was himself shot and injured during the incident but survived.

Adds  From today’s Irish Times report

The Court of Criminal Appeal heard that although the Special Criminal Court had heard the evidence taken in Belfast and had received a transcript of that evidence, the prosecution had not properly proved that this was admissible at the Dublin trial.

Mr Justice Hardiman said the material provided to the Belfast court was not part of the trial, and was not produced at the trial. He said what is presented to a judge outside a public court is not evidence in itself and must be read into the record of the court.

He said the Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act made it easy for the prosecution to prove evidence taken in Northern Ireland – but no attempt was made to prove it in the Special Criminal Court.

He said the nature of a criminal trial was that it was a “unitary phenomenon’’, and was not composed of different elements heard in different places. He said it was difficult to accept that any part of Mackin’s trial took place in Belfast, and it was impossible to accept that the judges of the Special Criminal Court were sitting as the Special Criminal Court when they attended the Belfast hearing. [added emphasis]

The judges had said they were observing the taking of the evidence by the Belfast judge, but were not taking part. He said there was clearly scope for the taking of evidence outside the jurisdiction, but such evidence must be for presentation to the court, which must then decide on its admissibility.

He said in the “somewhat perplexing course of the trial’’ the State had swayed this way and that on the question of proving the material taken in the North.

, , , , ,

  • Pete Baker

    Adds From today’s Irish Times report

    The Court of Criminal Appeal heard that although the Special Criminal Court had heard the evidence taken in Belfast and had received a transcript of that evidence, the prosecution had not properly proved that this was admissible at the Dublin trial.

    Mr Justice Hardiman said the material provided to the Belfast court was not part of the trial, and was not produced at the trial. He said what is presented to a judge outside a public court is not evidence in itself and must be read into the record of the court.

    He said the Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act made it easy for the prosecution to prove evidence taken in Northern Ireland – but no attempt was made to prove it in the Special Criminal Court.

    He said the nature of a criminal trial was that it was a “unitary phenomenon’’, and was not composed of different elements heard in different places. He said it was difficult to accept that any part of Mackin’s trial took place in Belfast, and it was impossible to accept that the judges of the Special Criminal Court were sitting as the Special Criminal Court when they attended the Belfast hearing. [added emphasis]

    The judges had said they were observing the taking of the evidence by the Belfast judge, but were not taking part. He said there was clearly scope for the taking of evidence outside the jurisdiction, but such evidence must be for presentation to the court, which must then decide on its admissibility.

    He said in the “somewhat perplexing course of the trial’’ the State had swayed this way and that on the question of proving the material taken in the North.

  • o’connor

    No wonder some British people are suspicious of the Irish legal system whenever it has to deal with ‘British’ criminals.

  • Munsterview

    Yeah ! occasionaly works; pity is’nt it ?

  • Rory Carr

    Au contraire, O’Connor, we who live in Britain would rather hope that the courts here would emulate the insistence of the Irish courts that” the nature of a criminal trial [be] that it [is] a unitary phenomenon’’ and that evidence taken outside the court be presented to the court for testing in the trial before it rather than it being blithely accepted.

    We are much exercised over here, for example, on the issue of the transfer of UK citizens to US jurisdiction on the simple issuance of US bench warrants which does not require that they satisfy the standards of prima facie evidence that would be required to allow a UK citizen to be extradited to the jurisdictiojn of any other foreign court. We would all sleep sounder in our beds were we to know that the UK courts would be as zealous as the Irish in protecting its citizens from the political whims of a foreign power however friendly that power might be supposed to be.

  • Munsterview

    Rory,

    agreed! I have some experience of UK courts through family lay cases and I was not one bit impressed in what I have seen, poor show and all as our own lot are.

    One of these cases co incided with Albert Reynols libel case. Some of the things that I heard from the opposition Council and Judge there could have come from the Casement trial and the Paranell forgery trial also. Detached and impartial justice, in my a*** it is!

  • Munsterview

    Rory,

    agreed! I have some experience of UK courts through family lay cases and I was not one bit impressed in what I have seen, poor show and all as our own lot most times are.

    At least we have the benefit of a constitution here to nail a judge to the barn door if they trample too much on citizens rights, the same behavior over there seems to be part of a necessary career path for the Law Lords or whatever they call it now days!

    One of these cases coincided with Albert Reynols libel case. Some of the things that I heard from the opposition Council and Judge there could have come from the Casement trial and the Parnell forgery trial also. Detached and impartial justice, in my a*** it is!

  • o’connor

    Agreed, there is much wrong with the UK legal system and sometimes trials even appear to have a political edge, but no where in British law do you find the blatant bias which has on occasion been shown by the Irish judiciary.

  • Rory Carr

    If you really believe that the English courts have shown themselves to be free of “blatant bias “, O’Connor, then I fear that you have completely missed hearing anything of some of the most notorious trials of the latter part of the twentieth century alone when Irish and English innocents again and again were convicted on evidence that should not have passed muster at arraignment for quite horrendous murders and quite scandalous High Court rulings on issues affecting trade unions in particular were drolly pronounced in order to seriously weaken workers’ struggles against exploitation.

    Journalists like the late Paul Foot and the late Ludovic Kennedy have written some memorable works on the failings of the English judiciary in this regard and you might wish to acquaint yourself with these works.

  • o’connor

    I have read Paul Foot and Ludovic Kennedy, both well known for their views. I have not said the British system is perfect just that it is not as biased, on particular issues, as the Irish system.

    To a degree all legal systems are echoes of the state they represent. If there are ever enquiries into Irish government collusion with the IRA, then there might be a light shone upon the judiciary in that area.