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abduction trial Phone records in Kevin Lunney abduction case were ‘unlawfully obtained’, defence lawyer tells court

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Kevin Lunney

Kevin Lunney

Kevin Lunney

PHONE records in the Kevin Lunney abduction case were "unlawfully obtained" and gardaí did not come "anywhere close" to showing reasonable grounds for seeking warrants for them, a defence lawyer has said.

Michael O’Higgins SC, for one of the accused, told the Special Criminal Court the information officers used to get warrants was "materially lacking" and they were executed at the wrong address.

The defence teams are challenging prosecution mobile phone evidence in the trial of four men charged over Mr Lunney’s kidnapping and torture in 2019.

The Quinn Industrial Holdings director (52) was bundled into a car outside his Co Fermanagh home and taken to a container where his captors broke his leg, slashed his face with a stanley knife and doused his wounds in bleach while ordering him to resign from the company.

They carved “QIH” into his chest with the knife and told him it was so he would “remember” before dumping him on a roadside in Co Cavan, the court has heard.

Darren Redmond (27), of Caledon Road, Alan O’Brien (40) of Shelmalier Road, both in East Wall, Dublin, and a man “YZ” (40), who cannot legally be named, are all alleged to have been directly involved in the attack.

Four men are on trial at the non-jury, three-judge court.

Luke O’Reilly (67), from Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan, allegedly provided “material assistance in the planning and execution of the offences" and owned the land where Mr Lunney was allegedly held.

They all face the same charges of false imprisonment and causing serious harm to Mr Lunney at Drumbrade, Ballinagh, Co Cavan, on September 17, 2019, which they deny.

In a voir dire, or trial within the trial, Mr O’Higgins challenged the phone data evidence on behalf of YZ, with the other accuseds’ barristers saying they would also be adopting points raised.

Mr O’Higgins objected to the information the gardaí relied on in their district court application for the warrant for records for the phone number ending in -717, attributed to YZ.

Mr O’Higgins argued there was "nothing there" to persuade a judge on an objective basis that there were reasonable grounds for the application.

He said what was laid before the judge was “very, very materially lacking” in what was required.

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It described the abduction and how Mr O’Reilly was identified as having bought bleach in a shop.

It stated that at the time of Mr Lunney’s imprisonment, there was contact between Mr O’Reilly’s phone and a number ending in - 2200. The court heard previously this was a number attributed to a now-deceased suspect in the investigation, Cyril McGuinness, also known as “Dublin Jimmy”.

The warrant application then stated there was contact between this suspect’s number and the one ending in -717.

Mr O’Higgins said the application gave no basis for the belief that the suspect with the -2200 number was involved in the false imprisonment of Mr Lunney.

He said this number had been in contact with 10 other people on the day of the abduction. A prosecution witness had told prosecutor Sean Guerin earlier that the -717 number was the one most frequently called by the -2200 phone on September 17, 2019: four times.

There was a “huge information deficit” in the warrant and there was nothing to contextualise why one person who had contact with the -2200 number might be any more connected to the offence than the others, Mr O'Higgins argued.

“There has to be something before the court other than ‘there was contact’,” he said. It did not come anywhere close to showing reasonable grounds, he said.

It was stated in the warrant application there was evidence the offence had been planned some weeks before but there was no basis asserted for it, he said.

On the warrant for YZ’s partner’s phone, Mr O’Higgins said she had never been a suspect and there was no suggestion YZ had been using her phone.

His second point was that the address for Meteor on the warrant was different to the address that it was actually executed on and there were “legal consequences” for that.

“This warrant doesn’t authorise the taking of the records and the records are unlawfully obtained,” he said.

Thirdly, Mr O’Higgins argued that a portion of the material was inadmissible – the geographical location of the cell sites. He said the provider did not have any legal basis for disclosing this information.

Mr O’Higgins' final legal submission on the phone records is on EU law and is due to continue tomorrow before Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge David McHugh.

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