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Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch and Jonathan Dowdall lose bid to have murder trial heard before jury

Hutch (58), who was extradited from Spain, and former Dublin City councillor Jonathan Dowdall (44), of Navan Road, Dublin, are both charged with the murder of David Byrne (33)

Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch

Robin Schiller

Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch and former Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan Dowdall have lost their challenges to have their murder trials heard before a jury.

The two men are charged with the murder of Kinahan associate David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in Dublin on February 5, 2016.

Both men were brought before the Special Criminal Court on separate dates last year and are due to stand trial in October.

Lawyers for both men brought legal challenges against their clients being tried before the non-jury court arguing that it was unlawful on a number of grounds.

However, the High Court today rejected their applications and ruled that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was entitled to certify that certain offences can be tried before the three judges.

The defence teams had argued that the Special Criminal Court was only set up by a proclamation of the government as a temporary measure 50 years ago but that it is now operating on a permanent basis.

They also submitted that the court was established to deal with subversive crime, and that trying offences described as loosely connected to "gangland crime" was unlawful.

Michael O'Higgins SC, for Dowdall (44), and Brendan Grehan SC, for Hutch (58), also argued that their clients were being deprived of their constitutional right to a trial by jury.

Mr Justice Anthony Barr said that it was clear from case law that while the 1972 proclamation had been made against a backdrop of subversive activity, it covered offences irrespective of whether they were connected to subversive crime or not.

The court said that, as long as the DPP believed that the ordinary courts are inadequate to secure the effective administration of justice, she can certify to have certain offences tried before the non-jury court.

Mr Justice Barr said the applicants had not persuaded the court that there is any basis in law to prevent the DPP from certifying that their murder trials should be tried before the Special Criminal Court.

He also said there was a difficulty with the applicants proposing that the government should withdraw the current proclamation and replace it with a fresh or alternative one.

Jonathan Dowdall

This, Mr Justice Barr said, would mean that the government holds simultaneous contradictory opinions, in that the ordinary courts are both adequate and inadequate to secure the effective administration of justice.

In his judgement, issued electronically, he refused the applications and gave the parties two weeks to furnish written submissions on the terms of the final order, costs, and any other matters.

The respondents in the case were the DPP, the Justice Minister, the Dáíl, the Seanad, Ireland and the Attorney General.

Gerry Hutch first appeared in court last September after being extradited from Spain before being formally charged with murder.

He was escorted into the building by plain clothed detectives from the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) during a significant security operation at the Criminal Courts of Justice on Parkgate Street.

During that hearing Det Supt Paul Scott, of Ballymun garda station, said Hutch was informed the DPP had certified that the ordinary courts were inadequate for the administration of justice and the preservation of peace.

This, he said, were grounds for him to be tried before the Special Criminal Court.

A book of evidence and a USB key containing electronic exhibits were also served on the defendant on that date, who only spoke briefly to confirm his name.

During the hearing his defence counsel also said they were reserving their position on the lawfulness of Hutch’s arrest and whether his trial should be separate to his four co-accused.

Gerry Hutch, with an address in Clontarf, Dublin, is the fifth person currently before the courts in relation to the Regency Hotel shooting. Jonathan Dowdall (44), of the Navan Road in Dublin 7, appeared in court last April charged with murder.

Three other men were brought before the court earlier that month in relation to the investigation.


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