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State witness Jonathan Dowdall appeals his sentence for role in Regency Hotel murder

Dowdall is now appealing against that sentence on the grounds of severity

Paul NeilanSunday World

Former Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan Dowdall, who is currently giving evidence for the State in the trial of Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch, has launched an appeal against his jail term for facilitating the Hutch gang in the notorious murder of Kinahan Cartel member David Byrne.

Dowdall pleaded guilty at the Special Criminal Court to making a room available to the Hutch gang at the Regency Hotel, Swords Road, north Dublin, where the murder of Byrne (34) occurred in February 2016.

He had been originally charged with the murder of Byrne but the State dropped that charge after Dowdall admitted to the lesser facilitation role.

In October of this year, Dowdall (44) of Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin 7, was sentenced before the three-judge court to four years imprisonment after he pleaded guilty on September 9 last to the offence.

Dowdall is now appealing against that sentence on the grounds of severity and the Court of Appeal today set the hearing date for February 20.

Dowdall who is being assessed for the Witness Protection Programme is currently giving evidence for the State against his former friend and one-time co-accused Mr Hutch, who denies the murder of Byrne.

When sentencing Dowdall, 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 gang member. The consequences of the assistance were particularly grave," he added.

Mr Justice Hunt said Jonathan Dowdall was "complicit in the crime" despite maintaining that he was not aware of the purpose or the significance for which the room in the Regency was to be used.

Gerry Hutch

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, he emphasised, did not justify a wholly suspended sentence.

Mr Justice Hunt said Dowdall had previously committed "serious crimes of violence" and that he was not a person of previous good character. Both Jonathan and Patrick Dowdall have previous convictions for false imprisonment, threatening to kill and causing serious harm from January 2015.

The non-jury court also accepted that Dowdall's service of the custodial sentence will "undoubtedly create difficulties" for his partner and family but Mr Justice Hunt said that this was part of the consequences of the crime.

The judge said that the "extraordinary additional factor" was Dowdall's decision to make a formal statement to gardai and give evidence against others.

The three-judge court accepted that "the immediate and lasting effect of assistance to the authorities" had placed Dowdall and his family "in significant peril, something which will continue after his release from prison".

Mr Justice Hunt also pointed out that due to the defendant's life being "upended" and made "more onerous and dangerous", Dowdall was entitled to a further significant reduction.

The sentence hearing was told that Room 2104 in the Regency Hotel was booked in the name of Patrick Dowdall on February 4, 2016, one day before Mr Byrne's murder. Patrick Dowdall's mobile phone number was also on the hotel's system, while a credit card connected to a family member of the Dowdalls had been used to secure the booking over the phone.

Jonathan Dowdall (right) leaving court with his father Patrick

At that hearing, Michael O'Higgins SC, for Dowdall, said the decision for Dowdall 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.

Dowdall was convicted under Section 72 of the Criminal Justice Act, that he did "on February 4, 2016, within the State and with knowledge of the existence of a criminal organisation, participated in, or contributed to, activity intending to, or being reckless as to whether such participation or contribution could facilitate the commission of a serious offence by that 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".


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