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Mr Moonlight case: Human rights watchdog allowed intervene in Patrick Quirke’s appeal

Quirke is seeking to overturn his conviction for the murder of love rival Bobby Ryan, a part time DJ known as Mr Moonlight

Pat Quirke Photo: Steve Humphreys

Shane PhelanIndependent.ie

Ireland’s human rights watchdog has been given permission to make submissions on the reach of search warrants in killer Patrick Quirke’s Supreme Court conviction appeal.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission’s involvement comes amid concerns it has about ensuring there are proper safeguards in place when electronic data is seized during searches.

Quirke is seeking to overturn his conviction for the murder of love rival Bobby Ryan, a part time DJ known as Mr Moonlight.

The Supreme Court appeal focuses on the validity of a search warrant used in the murder investigation and the DPP’s discretion in calling expert witnesses in a trial.

Mr Ryan (52) disappeared in June 2011 after spending the night at his girlfriend Mary Lowry's home in Fawnagown, Co Tipperary. Quirke (53), a married farmer who previously had an affair with Ms Lowry, "discovered" the body in a run-off tank on her farm, which he was renting, nearly two years later.

Among items seized by gardaí from Quirke’s home was a computer.

Officers found that internet searches had been conducted in relation to the decomposition of human remains and DNA.

The evidence was a crucial part of the largely circumstantial case which led to Quirke’s conviction in 2019 following the longest criminal trial in the history of the State.

Quirke, of Breanshamore, Co Tipperary, previously unsuccessfully challenged the validity of the search warrant on various grounds in the Court of Appeal, including that it did not refer to computers.

The Court of Appeal said the absence of computers from the sworn information given to the District Court judge who issued the warrant was "sub-optimal".

However, it said in this case it was "not in the nature of a fundamental error" and it was not persuaded the warrant was issued without jurisdiction.

IHREC applied to the Supreme Court to be made an “amicus curiae”, or friend of the court, earlier this year in relation to the search warrant issue.

The court, made up of Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne, Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley and Ms Justice Marie Baker, this morning gave it permission to make submissions in the appeal.

The watchdog said it would assist the court on the issues raised and, in particular, safeguards in relation to the use of search warrants in respect of the seizure of electronic devices.

Its chief commissioner, Sinéad Gibney, said: “Search warrants are an important tool for effective policing. As electronic devices permeate every aspect of our lives today, it is important to explore and consider safeguards regarding the use of search warrants in the seizure and examination of these devices.

“We thank the court for the opportunity to assist and bring forward relevant aspects of national and international human rights law on this issue.”

IHREC will go into the court as an uninterested party, neither taking sides with the DPP nor Quirke.

However, it has a role in sharing domestic, constitutional and international human rights law with the court.


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