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'Hobson's choice' Dublin brothers convicted of murdering gunman appeal their sentences

Counsel for Jason Bradley and Dean Bradley submitted to the three-judge panel today that the trial judge had erred in failing to discharge the jury when asked to do so, in circumstances which were unfair to their clients

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Dean and Jason Bradley

Dean and Jason Bradley

Dean and Jason Bradley

Two Dublin brothers, convicted of murdering a gunman who they "chopped" and ran over with a car after he shot at their home, have argued on appeal that they were left with "a Hobson's choice" after the trial judge failed to discharge the jury.

Counsel for Jason Bradley and Dean Bradley submitted to the three-judge panel today that the trial judge had erred in failing to discharge the jury when asked to do so, in circumstances which were unfair to their clients.

The Court of Appeal was told that Mr Justice Paul Coffey had revisited the issue of a directed verdict in relation to the appellants brother and co-accused Ryan Bradley and ultimately granted it after the closing speeches from counsel for Jason Bradley and Dean Bradley.

In July 2018, Jason Bradley (23) and Dean Bradley (27) of Liscarne Gardens, Dublin 22 were sentenced to life imprisonment after they were found guilty of the murder of 36-year-old Neil Reilly at Esker Glebe in Lucan, Dublin on January 18, 2017.

The appellants had been tried along with their father Paul Bradley and another brother Ryan Bradley.

Paul Bradley was acquitted by the jury and Ryan Bradley was acquitted by direction of the trial judge but pleaded guilty to an offence of impeding the murder investigation. He was ultimately given a fully suspended sentence of five years imprisonment.

During the trial it emerged that there was evidence from eyewitnesses that there was a confrontation between the four members of the Bradley family and the deceased in a housing estate in Lucan, which resulted in Jason Bradley delivering chopping blows to Mr Reilly before Dean Bradley drove a BMW over him.

Two witnesses saw him drive over Mr Reilly twice while another said she saw the car go over him three times.

Opening an appeal against conviction on Thursday, Jason Bradley's barrister Michael Bowman SC submitted that a key witness in the trial, Danielle Cusack, was the subject of considerable controversy and applications were made to withdraw her evidence from the jury.

Specifically, Ms Cusack said in her testimony that the car ran over Mr Reilly, and that two or possibly three men attacked the deceased and held him up while the car was preparing to run over him, he explained.

Mr Bowman said that this was in "marked contrast" to other witnesses, who saw nothing like this, and specifically did not see two to three men attacking Mr Reilly.

Mr Bowman said that Ms Cusack was an extremely important witness against Dean Bradley and Jason Bradley in terms of their actions and intent, and was an absolutely vital witness against Ryan Bradley.

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Therefore, Mr Bowman said it was understood that the primary responsibility for addressing Ms Cusack's evidence would fall to counsel for Ryan Bradley, though her evidence was addressed by counsel for Dean and Jason Bradley in the course of their closing speeches.

However, Mr Bowman said that counsel for Ryan Bradley did not make a closing speech and instead sought a direction on the basis that the case against her client was solely based on Ms Cusack's evidence.

The trial judge ruled that as there was no other evidence upon which the jury could properly find that Ryan Bradley was anything other than a passenger in the vehicle, he would direct the jury to acquit him of murder but allow the jury to consider the alternative count of impeding for which there was sufficient evidence, he said.

However, Mr Bowman said Ryan Bradley was then arraigned and pleaded guilty to a charge of impeding an investigation.

Mr Bowman said the fact counsel for Ryan Bradley did not make a closing speech had "important implications" for both his client and Dean Bradley.

Mr Bowman said he had applied to discharge the jury as he had been compromised in terms of a tactical approach as a result of the development so late in the day. However, counsel said the trial judge refused that application but sought to ameliorate the situation by offering him the opportunity to re-address the jury.

Counsel argued that the failure to discharge the jury in these circumstances amounted to an error in law and the unusual situation which arose left him with "truly a Hobson's choice".

Mr Bowman said he could have availed of the trial judge's offer and made a further speech "making a full-throated attack" upon Ms Cusack's evidence when he had previously adopted an entirely different tone, and he would be doing so where there had been an intervening speech by counsel for Dean Bradley.

Alternatively, Mr Bowman said he could have refused the offer, and left Ms Cusack's evidence commented upon, but not thoroughly attacked in the way it was to be by counsel for Ryan Bradley, or it would have been by counsel for Jason Bradley or Dean Bradley if they had known Ryan Bradley would be out of the case.

Mr Bowman said the difficulty was "insurmountable" no matter what one had chosen and the offer of a second closing speech simply would not have addressed the concern.

Whilst neither choice was attractive, he said both had distinct risks and inherent disadvantages and the situation which transpired was not brought about through any actions by counsel for Jason or Dean Bradley. In the circumstances, Mr Bowman said the only remedy was to discharge the jury as his client had been "uniquely exposed".

The second defendant, Jason Bradley moved to appeal his conviction on a number of grounds including that the trial judge had erred in law in allowing Ms Cusack to give evidence during the course of the trial, having regard to the circumstances in which her account came about and the failures of disclosure in relation to it.

His barrister, James Dwyer SC, said that Ms Cusack spoke to Garda Damien Reilly after the killing but no contemporaneous notes were taken at the time.

Ms Cusack then agreed to make a formal statement in mid-August 2017, using a technique known as enhanced cognitive interviewing (ECI), which is used to allow their memory to come more fully to the fore.

He said the witness was the only one with whom this procedure was used, where she set out in some detail her recollection, including the fact that the car had ran over Mr Reilly three times and that two to three men had held him up while the car reversed over him, something she had not mentioned to Gda Reilly.

Mr Dwyer argued that a statement arising out of that technique had never been sought to be admitted in an Irish court prior to the trial and had only been used in England and the US.

The prosecution had called an expert in ECI, a Professor Milne, who asserted that the technique had been used in an English case. Mr Dwyer argued that the technique has not been proven to be safe and reliable and held "considerable danger", given that it involved the constant reassurance and praise of an eyewitness by a person in authority.

"If it was such a free flowing account then it wouldn't have needed to bring an expert from the UK to give evidence on it," he added.

In reply, counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Paul Murray SC, referred to the ECI technique used and submitted that Ms Cusack was asked to give a free flowing account of what she recalled rather than "a stop start account".

He said there was no evidence called on behalf of any of the defendants to challenge the technique and the ruling of the trial judge on the issue was impeccable.

Mr Justice John Edwards, who sat with Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, said it was a complex matter and the court would reserve its judgement.

The court heard that the Bradleys got to know Neil Reilly through his son Dean. Dean became best friends with Ryan and Jason and when his father went to prison for drug dealing Dean became a regular visitor to the Bradley household. He was welcomed in, he regularly ate dinner there and got to know the whole family.

When his dad was soon to get out of prison Dean asked Paul Bradley if he would give his dad a job at the Bradley garage on the Naas Road. Paul agreed and Neil worked as a mechanic for him for a short time.

But, according to Dean's evidence, Jason amassed a debt of €9,000 to Neil Reilly for what the witness said could have been a drug debt.

On one occasion Neil called to the hotel where Jason worked, "to put a word on him" in Dean's words.

In December 2016 Reilly broke into the Bradley home armed with a garden shears. CCTV cameras inside the house showed him entering with two other men and going directly upstairs where he switched the CCTV system off. They ransacked the house and stole Paul Bradley's passport.

That was about one month before Neil Reilly planned and carried out his attack on the Bradley home.

He drove to Liscarne Gardens in a white van followed by an accomplice in a Mazda. He fired two shots that hit the house, smashing one of the front windows. Reilly drove off in the white van and after a short distance he abandoned the van, threw the gun over a garden wall and got into the Mazda.

Meanwhile, Dean Bradley was driving around the area in his BMW with then 17-year-old Ryan as his passenger.

Paul Bradley was in his SUV with Jason. After some minutes CCTV shows that Paul Bradley had turned towards home and called gardai to report that shots had been fired at his house.

By chance, at that moment he passed the Mazda with Neil Reilly in the passenger seat. Jason recognised the driver and can be heard on the 999 call telling his dad: "Go after them in that car," and, "Put up that phone and go after them. Go after them."

CCTV footage showed Paul Bradley's jeep chasing the Mazda at speed towards Esker Glebe where, Paul Bradley revealed during the trial, the Mazda crashed.

The Bradley jeep crashed into the now stationary Mazda, spinning it so that it faced the wrong direction on the road. Both Jason and Paul got out while Reilly's accomplice escaped on foot.

Reilly and Jason fought. In the struggle Jason suffered a deep cut to his hand which would later require medical treatment. But he overpowered Neil Reilly and used a sharp weapon to beat him to death.

Two blows to his head caused skull fractures and lacerations to the brain. A pathologist would later find seven chop wounds in total, all of them severe and potentially fatal. The weapon has not been found.

As Reilly lay in the road Dean Bradley's BMW arrived on the scene. He drove over Neil Reilly, causing crush injuries to the pelvis that the pathologist said could have been fatal on their own and contributed to death.

While Dean claimed this was an accident, caused by his poor eyesight, one witness said she saw his car reverse and then drive forward over Reilly a second time. Another witness said he wasn't 100pc sure, but he thought it reversed and then drove over him a second time while a third, Danielle Cusack said Dean's BMW struck and ran over Reilly three times.

In Dean Bradley's defence, his lawyer argued that he ran over the deceased by accident and should be either acquitted or convicted of manslaughter if the jury decided that his driving was grossly negligent.

Jason Bradley's counsel argued that he should be found guilty of manslaughter and not murder as he was so provoked by Reilly's intimidation tactics and the shooting that he had lost all self control when he inflicted the fatal blows.

Ryan was acquitted on the murder charge by the trial judge on the basis that there was no evidence he got out of Dean Bradley's car or took any part in the assault on Neil Reilly.

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