'stuff of nightmares' | 

Court hears confidential discussions between Robbie Lawlor murder accused and lawyers 'monitored'

Adrian Holland and Patrick Teer are now trying to to have their prosecutions halted in connection with the murder

Robbie Lawlor

Alan Erwin

Covert monitoring has been carried out on confidential legal consultations with one of the men in custody accused of murdering Irish crime boss Robbie Lawlor, a court has heard.

Adrian Holland and his co-accused Patrick Teer are both now seeking to have their prosecutions halted over the alleged eavesdropping on discussions with their lawyers.

A defence barrister described it as “the stuff of nightmares”.

Holland, 38, and Teer, 46, are currently on remand at HMP Maghaberry, jointly charged with the murder of Lawlor in north Belfast on April 4, 2020.

The 36-year-old gangland figure was shot dead when a gunman emerged from a house at Etna Drive in the Ardoyne district and opened fire.

His killing has been linked to a drugs feud between rival crime factions across Ireland and beyond.

Neither Holland, from Etna Drive in Belfast, nor Teer, of Thornberry Hill in the city, are suspected of carrying out the shooting.

Instead, they have been charged as part of a joint enterprise with others.

At Belfast Magistrates’ Court details of two alleged covert monitoring incidents were revealed.

As Holland was brought to a Zoom conference meeting on January 12, he spotted unidentified individuals watching and listening in another room.

A prison governor subsequently issued an apology in which she confirmed staff do not have permission to listen to conversations and described it as a “misunderstanding”.

But according to Holland’s barrister, Joe Brolly, a telephone consultation on January 14 was also targeted.

A defence solicitor heard glitches on the line, the call dropped out, and then a voice stated “that’s them back on now”, the court was told.

Mr Brolly claimed it was evidence of systemic eavesdropping.

“This is a matter of the gravest significance,” he argued.

“It’s quite clear we are not going to be able to consult with the accused - God only knows what they have listened to and what information has been passed on.”

Defence lawyers have now written to the Public Prosecution Service, seeking urgent clarification if it knows anything about any monitoring carried out at the request of police.

Mr Brolly also confirmed: “We will be making an abuse of process application to stop (the prosecution) altogether.

“This is a fundamental building block of our jurisprudence, where someone is in custody in a most serious case like this the state must guarantee confidentiality.”

Counsel for Teer, Sean Devine, was equally scathing about the alleged practice.

“It is very difficult to respond to what has been outlined with anything other than anger,” he said.

“It’s the stuff of nightmares, quite frankly.”

A PPS lawyer told the court she could not comment on the accuracy of the allegations.

“This is something the Prison Service needs to deal with,” she added.

Adjourning the case for a week, District Judge George Conner acknowledged: “You have raised significant issues which will have to be addressed in due course.”

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