secretive | 

State spent €400k on witness protection in 2021 but figure likely to rise to protect Jonathan Dowdall

Witnesses in the programme are generally sent to English-speaking countries including the UK, Canada and Australia

Gang boss John Gilligan© PA

Alan SherrySunday World

The State spent just €400,000 on the secretive Witness Security Programme (WSP) in 2021 but that figure is likely to increase to protect the family of Jonathan Dowdall.

The amount spent annually on the programme is significantly down on the €1.32m spent in 2016 when the Hutch-Kinahan feud was at its peak.

However, it has steadily increased since 2019 when just €200,000 was spent on the programme followed by €300,000 in 2020.

The €400,000 spent last year was significantly down from an allocated budget of just under €1.2m.

Figures for 2022 will be not be finalised until next year.

The WSP is run by the Witness Security Unit in the Crime and Security section of An Garda Siochana and was set up in 1997 after gang members agreed to give evidence against John Gilligan’s gang following the murder of crime reporter Veronica Guerin.

​Charlie Bowden, who loaded the weapon used in the killing was granted immunity from prosecution for murder but served time for drugs and firearms offences, before being relocated to a secret location abroad.

Russell Warren and John Dunne, who also gave evidence in the trial, were also entered into the programme.

The court rejected some of the evidence given by the witnesses and described Bowden as someone who would “lie without hesitation” if he thought it was in his best interest.

Dowdall is currently being assessed for the WSP when he gets out of prison and a decision is not expected to be made about his admittance into the programme until the middle of January next year.

Witnesses in the programme are generally sent to English-speaking countries including the UK, Canada and Australia, but have also been offered places in non-English countries in Europe including Austria.

They are given new identities and set up abroad with the aim of them becoming self-sufficient after awhile.

Witnesses are supposed to be set up with a similar income to what they had before going into the programme.

Dowdall, who ran his own business and had a good standard of living, would be seeking to have a similar standard of living abroad.

As he is a qualified tradesman, he would be in a good position to get a job while living abroad and not have to rely on State pay-outs.

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