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Challenge rejected Four men accused of imprisoning Kevin Lunney fail to halt Special Criminal Court trial

The defence argued the non-jury court was originally supposed to be “emergency and temporary” but over 50 years had “morphed” into a “permanent institution"

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Kevin Lunney

Kevin Lunney

Kevin Lunney

Four men accused of imprisoning and assaulting Quinn executive Kevin Lunney have failed in a legal challenge to the jurisdiction of the Special Criminal Court to hold their trial.

The defence argued the non-jury court was originally supposed to be “emergency and temporary” but over 50 years had “morphed” into a “permanent institution." They maintained this was outside the scope of what was envisaged and as a result the court could not lawfully try the case.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt rejected their arguments and refused to halt the trial, which is now due to open tomorrow.

The four men are charged over an alleged attack on Mr Lunney (51), a director of Quinn Executive Holdings in 2019. The father-of-six had his leg broken, was doused in bleach and had the letters ‘QIH’ carved into his chest before he was dumped on a roadside in Co Cavan.

Luke O’Reilly (67), from Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan, Darren Redmond (27), of Caledon Road, East Wall, Dublin 3 and Alan O’Brien (40) of Shelmalier Road, East Wall, Dublin 1, are charged with false imprisonment and causing serious harm to Mr Lunney at Drumbrade, Ballinagh, Co Cavan, on September 17th, 2019.

Another man, ‘YZ’ (40), who cannot be named for legal reasons, is charged with the same offences.

Today, Michael O’Higgins SC, for the unnamed man, set out his legal challenge, which was also adopted by the three co-accused.

Mr O’Higgins said the establishment of a Special Criminal Court was envisaged by the Constitution, provided for in the Offences Against the State Act and it was set up by government proclamation in 1972, at a time of increased paramilitary activity.

He was not challenging the legitimacy of the court, but argued it had been envisaged by the Oireachtas as an emergency measure.

He said the law used to set it up was specifically described in one Supreme Court judgement as being “in the nature of emergency legislation” while in another it was “spelt out” that the measure was to be temporary.

“50 years on, it has morphed from a temporary position to be a permanent and perpetual court,” Mr O’Higgins said.

“If it’s no longer temporary and is permanent, this court doesn’t have jurisdiction to deal with this case,” Mr O’Higgins argued.

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At the time of the 1972 proclamation the government was focused on a specific set of circumstances and the “crystallisation” of the court into something permanent had not been envisaged, he said.

“Common sense” would dictate that 50 years on, we are not dealing with a temporary situation and it could be concluded that it was going to be in existence for another 50 years, he continued.

The DPP now decided "on an ad hoc basis" new circumstances in which the court can conduct trials, he said, and the balance that the Oireachtas had was “effectively disengaged and set at nought.”

“There are trials taking place with what I submit is a democratic deficit which could only be made good by the Government issuing a fresh proclamation,” Mr O’Higgins said.

Replying, prosecutor Sean Guerin SC said the word “temporary” was not in the Constitution or legislation but in a “passing comment” by a Supreme Court judge.

“As a source of authority, it’s effectively meaningless,” Mr Guerin said.

“You can’t have an emergency that’s in perpetuity,” Mr O’Higgins said. “All emergencies are temporary in nature.”

Mr Justice Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge David McHugh, said the court's jurisdiction had been established and had not been displaced by the legal submissions. The trial will continue tomorrow, he said.

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