Court challenge | 

Jailed James 'Mago' Gately plotter Stephen Fowler tries to stop gardaí crushing car

Fowler was jailed earlier this year for his role in a failed attempt by the Kinahan organised crime gang to murder James 'Mago' Gately
Criminal Stephen Fowler

Criminal Stephen Fowler

Tim Healy

A high court challenge has been launched over An Garda Síochána's alleged seizure and continued retention of a car belonging to convicted criminal Stephen Fowler.

Fowler, jailed earlier this year for his role in a failed attempt by the Kinahan organised crime gang to murder James 'Mago' Gately, says he gave his full permission to a friend, Gary Byrne, to use his car while he serves his sentence in Portlaoise Prison.

The High Court heard that on October 31 this year, the car in question, a brown 2014 Skoda Octavia, was detained and seized by gardaí.

It is currently being retained by gardaí and had been listed to be crushed at a breaker's yard. However, following the intervention of Fowler's lawyers, the car remains intact.

The court heard Fowler gave his "good friend" Mr Byrne of Edenmore Crescent, Raheny, Dublin 5, full permission to use his car as he had no use for it while he was serving his sentence.

Brendan Hennessy BL said gardaí have been made fully aware of the fact Mr Byrne, who is insured to drive the vehicle, was given permission to use the car.

The insurance on the car is fully up-to-date, counsel added.

The garda who detained the car questioned the validity of the insurance, counsel said. He said that view was irrational and disproportionate.

In the circumstances, the seizure and the continued retention of the car amounts to a clear abuse of authority, counsel added.

Mago Gately

Mago Gately

Letters have been sent to gardaí from the applicant's solicitor confirming Mr Byrne has the owner's permission to use the car, counsel said.

In breach of the car owner's property rights, the car has been retained and not returned to Mr Byrne, he said.

As a result, the two applicants have brought judicial review proceedings against the Garda Commissioner where they seek various orders. These include that the decision to refuse to return the vehicle be quashed and that the car be given to Mr Byrne.

They further seek a declaration that the seizure and continued detention of the car amounts to an abuse of process.

They further seek damages.

Mr Justice Charles Meenan yesterday granted the applicants permission, on an ex-parte basis (where only side was represented), to bring the challenge. The case comes back in February.

Last October, Fowler (62), from Blakestown Cottages, Clonsilla, was sentenced to six years and nine months for his "logistical" involvement in the murder plot. The last 15 months of the sentence was suspended for three years.

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