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Guilty plea Witness failed to give evidence at Aaron Brady trial after threats from "criminal or paramilitary elements", court hears

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.Aaron Brady leaving Dundalk District Court in 2013

.Aaron Brady leaving Dundalk District Court in 2013

.Aaron Brady leaving Dundalk District Court in 2013

A key witness failed to give evidence in the trial of Aaron Brady for the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe after receiving threats "backed by criminal or paramilitary elements", a High Court judge has heard.

Father-of-two Colin Hoey (30) was today jailed for 21 days and fined €2,000 for contempt of court. Mr Hoey, with an address at O'Neill Estate, Cregganduff, Co Armagh, pleaded guilty to the charge after failing to appear to answer a witness order during the trial of Aaron Brady.

Mr Hoey had initially provided an alibi for Aaron Brady but later retracted it.

Mr Justice Michael White said this morning that he was sure threats issued to Mr Hoey and his family in advance of the Brady trial had been taken "quite seriously" by them.

He noted that Mr Hoey was a "very decent young man" from a "very decent family" who had been caught up in a "very difficult situation".

A bench warrant was issued for Mr Hoey by trial judge Mr Justice White on March 5 this year and he was arrested by gardai on October 5 after presenting himself at The Criminal Courts of Justice.

The High Court has heard that the offence is punishable by imprisonment, fine or both.

Aaron Brady was found guilty of the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe by an 11 to one majority jury verdict at the Central Criminal Court on August 11.

Last month, the 29-year-old with a last address at New Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh was sentenced to the mandatory term for murder of life imprisonment with a minimum time served of 40 years.

Brady was also sentenced to 14 years for the robbery of €7,000 - a sentence that will run concurrently with the life sentence - at Lordship Credit Union in Bellurgen, Co Louth on January 25, 2013.

During hearings at Brady's trial, Detective Inspector Mark Phillips of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation said that Mr Hoey was a witness of "some significance" who had provided an alibi for Aaron Brady but had later withdrawn that alibi.

At today's contempt hearing in the High Court, Remy Farrell SC, for Mr Hoey, told Mr Justice White that the charge of contempt against his client was admitted.

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Taking the witness stand, Det Insp Phillips told prosecution counsel Brendan Grehan SC that Mr Hoey had "significant evidence" to give at Brady's trial if he had attended.

Under cross-examination, Det Insp Phillips agreed with Mr Farrell that "certain elements" had made contact with Mr Hoey and his father in advance of Brady's trial and "these elements" had intimated that it might not be in Mr Hoey's best interest to attend Brady's trial.

Mr Farrell put it to the witness that whatever was said had certainly caused Mr Hoey and his family to take the view that these were "implicit threats" backed by criminal or paramilitary elements.

"I'm not party to the conversation that took place but ultimately he did not appear to give evidence," replied Det Insp Phillips.

At a brief hearing last month, Detective Garda Padraic O'Reilly testified that Mr Hoey was informed on March 3, 2020 that he was required to attend

The Criminal Courts of Justice the following day to give evidence in the Brady trial and if he did not show up a bench warrant would be issued.

However, the witness did not attend court on March 4 and a bench warrant was issued by trial judge Mr Justice White on March 5.

Attempts were made by gardai to execute the warrant after this date, the High Court was told.

However, solicitor Danny McNamee, for Mr Hoey, made contact with gardai in early October and informed them that his client wished to present himself for the execution of the warrant.

Mr Hoey presented himself at The Criminal Courts of Justice on October 5 and the warrant was executed.

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