Jonathan Dowdall appeals severity of ‘four year term’ for facilitating David Byrne’s murder

It’s understood no such papers were filed on behalf of Jonathan’s father Patrick

Jonathan Dowdall and his father Patrick (centre)

Patrick O'ConnellSunday World

Convicted torturer Jonathan Dowdall has appealed the severity of a four-year jail term handed down to him for facilitating the Regency Hotel murder of David Byrne, can reveal.

Lawyers for the former Sinn Fein councillor filed papers appealing the severity of sentence before the Court of Appeal on Friday.

It’s understood no such papers were filed on behalf of Jonathan’s father Patrick – who is serving two years for his role in facilitating the same murder.

We revealed last week how Dowdall, who has agreed to testify against former associate Gerry ‘the Monk’ Hutch, had been sent to Limerick Prison to serve out his sentence.

He and his father Patrick are now under a 23-hour-lockdown regime in a special protection wing of Limerick Prison, where they are housed in cells beside each other.

Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch

The 44-year-old sparked panic among the Hutch gang when they heard he is willing to testify in the Regency murder trial.

He has also provided a statement that potentially 'implicates other persons', including Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch.

After he agreed to testify, a murder charge against Dowdall was dropped and he entered a plea of guilty to the lesser charge of facilitating Byrne’s murder.

Sentencing the 44-year-old for the at the non-jury Special Criminal Court last month, presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt noted that the former electrician knew that he was assisting a serious criminal organisation and that he had received and followed instructions to obtain the hotel room at the Regency Hotel.

“He gave a key card to another member of the criminal organisation and made a room available to a leading member. The consequences of the assistance were particularly grave,” he added.

Jonathan Dowdall, Mr Justice Hunt said, had also appeared to continue the association with the same criminal organisation on 7 March 2016.

The three-judge court found that the former Dublin city councillor, with an address at Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin 7, had also journeyed to meet with a man in north county Dublin and travelled with the same man to Northern Ireland.

Referring to a submission by counsel for Jonathan Dowdall that no “injustice” would be done by giving his client a suspended sentence due to exceptional circumstances of the case, Mr Justice Hunt said that “regrettably” the court could not accept this.

“The offer of assistance to the prosecution does not justify a wholly suspended sentence,” he said.

The judge said that the “extraordinary additional factor” was Jonathan Dowdall’s decision to make a statement to gardai and give evidence against others.

“It is not part of our function to assess the relevance of this,” he added.

However, the three-judge court accepted that this decision had put Dowdall and his family “in peril” and that their lives had been “upended”.

Mr Justice Hunt, sitting with Judge Martin Nolan and Judge James Faughnan, sentenced Jonathan Dowdall to four years imprisonment.

Once standard remission of 25 per cent is applied to Dowdall’s sentence, he will serve just three years for his crime.

Co-accused and Jonathan’s father Patrick Dowdall (65), of the same address, was sentenced to two years in prison for his role in facilitating the murder of Mr Byrne.

Passing sentence on Patrick Dowdall, Mr Justice Hunt said that the senior man had made no attempt to conceal or disguise his actions.

The court accepted that Patrick Dowdall would be “caught up” in the aftermath of his son’s decision to turn State witness.

Both men, especially Jonathan, are under the “severest threat level possible” because of his decision to give evidence against Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch in his ongoing murder trial.

Defence counsel Michael O’Higgins SC, defending Jonathan Dowdall, told the Special Criminal Court his client was being assessed for the Witness Protection Program (WPP) after giving a statement to gardai that implicated another or others in the murder of Mr Byrne, which was of benefit to the prosecution.

David Byrne was shot dead in the Regency attack

The three-judge court heard that following Jonathan Dowdall’s arrest in April 2021 in relation to the murder of David Byrne, he said he wanted to speak to someone about the Witness Protection Program and indicated that November that he was willing to make a statement to gardai about his knowledge of the Regency hotel shooting.

Jonathan Dowdall was interviewed by gardai and they then set about checking the information supplied by him.

A formal statement was not taken from Jonathan Dowdall until the last week of September this year.

Dowdall gave what was described in court as a “sincere and genuine” statement to gardai and had made himself available as a witness to give evidence in the upcoming trial of Mr Hutch, who is charged with Mr Byrne’s murder.

Mr O’Higgins said the decision to give a statement to gardai had placed a “very, very heavy burden” on Dowdall and his family, that his client was facing a “pretty grim” future and that he would never again live in Ireland.

“In effect it’s like taking your life and standing it on its head,” he added.

The lawyer also said his client’s agreement to testify had “very dark consequences” for the Dowdalls and that his life was “effectively over”.

Mr O’Higgins added that his client would be living in “permanent exile” and have to spend his life looking over his shoulder.

Detective Sergeant Patrick O’Toole told the three-judge court that while Dowdall had known the Hutch family since he was 15-years-old and occasionally borrowed money from them, he was not a member of any criminal organisation and had not benefited from the activities of the Hutch crime gang.

The court also heard that on the night of 4 February, a man identified as the now deceased Kevin Murray, who was wearing a flat cap, was captured exiting a taxi and going straight up to the hotel room.

It was clear Murray, who had known paramilitary connections with the IRA, had a key card, the court heard.

The court has heard that “one of the garda views was that Mr Murray was there to attract attention on the basis that if gardai applied resources to the investigation they would be misdirected in a paramilitary direction”.

Mr O’Higgins suggested it was also the garda view that the criminals behind the Regency attack asked Jonathan Dowdall to assist in order to lead gardai to believe that republican paramilitaries were behind the attack.

Both Jonathan and his father pleaded guilty to participating in or contributing to activity intending to or being reckless as to whether such participation or contribution could facilitate the commission of a serious offence by a criminal organisation or any of its members, to wit the murder of David Byrne, by making a room available at the Regency Hotel, Drumcondra, Dublin 9, for that criminal organisation or its members, within the State on 4 February 2016.

Jonathan Dowdall, who served as an elected Sinn Féin councillor in the north inner city ward in May 2014 and resigned less than one year later, had been charged in April 2021 at the non-jury court with the murder of Mr Byrne (34), from Crumlin, at the Regency Hotel in Whitehall, north Dublin.

The State dropped the murder charge against Jonathan Dowdall on October 3.

Mr Byrne was shot dead at the hotel on the Swords Road, Co Dublin, on 5 February 2016 after five men, three disguised as armed gardaí, stormed the building.

In June 2017, Jonathan Dowdall was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and Patrick Dowdall eight years imprisonment by the Special Criminal Court for physically and mentally torturing a man they both suspected of trying to defraud them.

They had both pleaded guilty at the non-jury Special Criminal Court to falsely imprisoning the man and threatening to kill him at Jonathan’s family home on January 15, 2015.

However, the Dowdalls successfully appealed their sentences before the Court of Appeal in April 2018 and Jonathan Dowdall was resentenced to 10 years imprisonment with the final 25 months suspended and Patrick Dowdall to seven with the final three years suspended.

Both were released on bail in April at the conclusion of their sentences for that crime.

Their sentences for facilitating the murder of David Byrne began on Tuesday of last week and saw them moved to Limerick Prison after they handed themselves in at Portlaoise High Security prison.

Limerick Prison was chosen as the facility to house former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan and his father Patrick Dowdall because the jail does not have any known criminals involved in the deadly Hutch/Kinahan feud that has claimed 18 lives.

As part of the protective regime surrounding the north Dublin duo in Limerick, they are not allowed to mix with other prisoners.

All their meals are delivered to their individual prison cells and they can only take their hour of exercise time when other prisoners are on their meal breaks.

The trial of Gerard Hutch (59), last of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin 3, who denies the murder of Mr Byrne (33) during a boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel on February 5, 2016, is ongoing.

Mr Hutch's two co-accused - Paul Murphy (61), of Cherry Avenue, Swords, Co. Dublin, and Jason Bonney (50), of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, Dublin 13, have pleaded not guilty to participating in or contributing to the murder of Mr Byrne by providing access to motor vehicles on February 5, 2016.

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