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.