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High Court challenge Regency Hotel murder accused Jonathan Dowdall says non-jury trial is breach of rights

The former Sinn Fein councillor is charged with the murder of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel, in Whitehall, Dublin 9 on February 5th, 2016

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Jonathan Dowdall

Jonathan Dowdall

Jonathan Dowdall

Regency Hotel murder accused Jonathan Dowdall has launched a High Court challenge against the jurisdiction of the non-jury Special Criminal Court to hear his trial.

The former Sinn Fein councillor is charged with the murder of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel, in Whitehall, Dublin 9 on February 5th, 2016.

Last April the DPP certified that under the 1939 Offences Against the State Act the accused's trial should not proceed before an ordinary court, and that Mr Dowdall should be tried before the non-jury Special Criminal Court (SCC).

Mr Dowdall of Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin, who had been an elected member of Dublin City Council, claims that he should not be tried for the offence before the SCC.

To do so, his lawyers told the High Court on Monday, amounts to a breach of his constitutional rights and is in breach of his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

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He claims that while the state is entitled to set up the SCC, the Oireachtas has failed to enact legislation to permit the establishment of a permanent SCC.

The legislation being used by the DPP to allow Mr Dowdall go before ethe non-jury court, was introduced in 1972 during the Troubles, it is claimed.

That legislation, it is claimed is temporary in nature, and was brought into being as an emergency provision.

It is claimed that Mr Dowdall should not have been sent forward and tried before the non-jury court, under temporary legislation.

The failure by the State to convert the temporary emergency measures regarding the SCC into a permanent situation amounts to a failure to properly safeguard Mr Dowdall's rights including his right to the presumption of innocence, it is further claimed.

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In judicial review proceedings against the Director of Public Prosecutions, The Minister for Justice, Dail Eireann, Ireland and the Attorney General, Mr Dowdall seeks various orders and declarations from the court.

He seeks an order prohibiting his trial from proceeding before the SCC.

He also seeks declarations including that his trial before the SCC, is unlawful, outside the powers of the 1939 Offences Against the State Act, and violates his constitutional and ECHR rights.

He further seeks a declaration that the failure by the State to enact anything other than temporary measures in respect of procedures for the trial of persons before the SCC also breaches his rights.

The matter came before Mr Justice Anthony Barr on Monday.

The judge granted Mr Dowdall permission, on an ex-parte basis, to bring the challenge.  The case was made returnable to a date in November.

The judge also granted a stay on the trial, pending the outcome of the High Court action.

The respondents could apply to the court, on notice to the applicant, to have that stay lifted should they wish to do so, the judge added. 

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