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Man accused of helping Regency shooting gang ‘unlawfully’ detained by gardai, defence says

Jason Bonney (51) is accused of driving one of the cars in a convoy that took the Regency gunmen away after the murder

Jason Bonney at the Special Criminal Court

Andrew PhelanSunday World

One of the men accused of helping the gang behind the Regency hotel shooting was “unfairly” questioned and “unlawfully” detained by gardai after his arrest, his defence has argued.

It “beggared belief” that Jason Bonney (51) was not cautioned before he was first questioned by gardai investigating the gangland murder of David Byrne, his lawyer said. His responses were used by gardai to ground his later detention which was then also “tainted,” the Special Criminal Court was told.

John Fitzgerald SC, for Mr Bonney, today asked the court’s three judges to rule the interview evidence inadmissible. The court has not yet ruled on the legal challenge.

Mr Bonney is accused of driving one of the cars in a convoy that took the Regency gunmen away after the murder, helping them escape.

He is on trial along with Gerard “The Monk” Hutch and another man, Paul Murphy.

While Mr Hutch is charged with Mr Byrne's murder, Mr Bonney and Mr Murphy are accused of facilitating the killing by providing the perpetrators with access to vehicles.

Mr Byrne (33), a Kinahan gang member, was shot dead when three assault rifle-wielding masked gunmen, disguised as ERU gardai, stormed the Regency in north Dublin along with an armed man dressed as a woman in a blonde wig, and another in a flat cap.

The February 5, 2016 attack on a boxing weigh-in event happened as a bloody feud raged between the capital's Kinahan and Hutch gangs.

The trial of Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch for the murder of David Byrne in 2016 is continuing at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphries

Mr Hutch (59), of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin, Mr Murphy (61) of Cherry Avenue, Swords and Mr Bonney of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, deny the charges against them.

The Regency attack team are alleged to have arrived at and fled the scene in a silver Ford Transit van.

Mr Murphy’s Toyota Avensis taxi and Mr Bonney’s BMWX5 jeep are both alleged to have been part of a convoy that parked up at nearby St Vincent’s GAA club grounds before the attack and transported the assassination team away after they abandoned the Ford Transit.

Evidence of Mr Murphy and Mr Bonney’s arrest and interview was heard over the last two days of the trial.

Today, Mr Fitzgerald argued that his client’s first interview was unfair because he was not cautioned about his rights or that his replies could be used in evidence.

Mr Fitzgerald said this “relatively formal” conversation with gardai was heldin Mr Bonney’s kitchen on February 21, 2016.

The gardai should have cautioned him before conducting that question and answer session, he said. It should have been signed but was not, Mr Fitzgerald said.

“That fed into what happened thereafter,” he said, when on May 27, 2016, Mr Bonney was arrested and a significant part of that arrest was an alleged discrepancy between his February 21 account and the movements of the vehicle on CCTV, Mr Fitzgerald said.

That in turn “tainted” Mr Bonney’s detention because again, the material that was “obtained unfairly” was used at least in part to detain him.

There was also a separate problem with the detention, Mr Fitzgerald said, in that not only was it based on unfairly obtained material, but it was based on a “very significant factual error.”

David Byrne was shot dead in the Regency attack

Part of the grounds was that Mr Bonney was seen with his jeep at “other locations for which he had not accounted.”

The court was in a position to see on the CCTV evidence “that that was simply wrong,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

It was clear that the BMW was seized because gardai believed it was evidence of or related to the commission of a serious offence, he said. It was very difficult to square that with the failure to caution Mr Bonney.

Det Gda Alan Crummey, who spoke to Mr Bonney on February 21, 2016, had been given a jobs book that told him to administer a caution but he “quite clearly didn’t read” it, Mr Fitzgerald said. Det Gda Crummey had explained this “rather casually as being a mistake.” Det Gda James Duffy who accompanied him had also not read the jobs book and Mr Fitzgerald said it was “extraordinary” for two gardai in an important investigation not to take the time to do this. It “simply beggars belief”, he said and one would have thought they shouldn’t even have to have been told to administer a caution, he said.

A vehicle that was at the centre of the CCTV footage had been seized and it should have been self-evident that a caution would be required, he said.

It was not an informal chat and the failure to caution Mr Bonney was not a simple mistake but a “very grave error.”

After Mr Bonney was arrested, the grounds for detention centred around the BMW and alleged inconsistencies between what was said on February 21 and what was seen on the CCTV.

As a result, the unfairness from that conversation “fed into” the manner in which the information was used, Mr Fitzgerald said. The “casual attitude” displayed by the gardai on February 21 was again exhibited in an exchange between arresting officer Detective Garda O’Toole and member in charge at Ballymun garda station, Detective Sergeant John Collins.

Det Sgt Collins had been told Mr Bonney was seen with the jeep at a number of locations but this was wrong and the court had viewed CCTV where he was not seen with the jeep other than at Drumnigh Wood, Mr Fitzgerald said.

He asked the court to rule inadmissible not just the initial questioning of Mr Bonney on February 21 but also “the fruits of the unlawful detention on May 27.”

Bernard Condon SC, for Mr Murphy, was making similar submissions on his client’s behalf this afternoon.

The trial continues before Ms Justice Tara Burns, Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone.

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