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contempt of court Witness who flew to Ayia Napa when due to give evidence in Cameron Blair murder trial is arrested

It is the State's belief that the witness and his co-accused left the jurisdiction in order to avoid giving evidence at the trial

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Cameron Blair (Pic: Gerard McCarthy)

Cameron Blair (Pic: Gerard McCarthy)

Cameron Blair (Pic: Gerard McCarthy)

A witness who travelled to Ayia Napa when he was due to give evidence in the trial of a teenager accused of producing a knife at a house party where college student Cameron Blair was murdered, has been arrested and will face trial for contempt of court.

At an out-of-hours sitting of the High Court this evening, Mr Justice David Keane heard that Craig O'Donoghue (20) had been served with a witness order in May, which required him to give evidence at the juvenile's trial last month. However, Mr O'Donoghue travelled to Ayia Napa at the end of May and was not available to give evidence.

It is the State's belief that the witness and his co-accused left the jurisdiction in order to avoid giving evidence at the trial.

On May 28, a 16-year-old accused who cannot be named because he is a minor, went on trial charged with the production of a knife at a house on Bandon Road in Cork city on January 16, 2020. He had been on trial at the Central Criminal Court, which was sitting in Croke Park, for almost three weeks before the case ended last month.

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Gardai at the scene in Bandon Road, Cork, where Cameron Blair was stabbed. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Gardai at the scene in Bandon Road, Cork, where Cameron Blair was stabbed. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Gardai at the scene in Bandon Road, Cork, where Cameron Blair was stabbed. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

On June 16, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) discontinued with the charge against the teenager and will enter a nolle prosequi against him in due course meaning that the State will not be proceeding with the charge of producing a knife against the juvenile.

The accused, who was 14 at the time of the incident, had pleaded not guilty to producing an article capable of inflicting serious injury in the course of a dispute, to wit a knife, in a manner likely to unlawfully intimidate another person.

During the trial, John Fitzgerald SC for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) told Mr Justice Keane that there had been an issue in relation to two of the witnesses in the book of evidence. "The information is that they went to Ayia Napa in Cyprus and it is the State's belief that they did so in order to avoid giving evidence," he said.

On the day that the trial ended, the judge said that it seemed to be a "profoundly serious matter" to fail to comply with a witness order and it had to be treated as a matter of "significant gravity". He said it was his task to ensure the administration of justice and he had to do his utmost to make sure that this was the case. "If events occur that interfere with the administration of justice I have to be concerned. Because I issued warrants which weren't obeyed, I will be guided in due course. I think the failure to attend in accordance with a witness order is a contempt of court," he noted.

At the time, Mr Fitzgerald said he did not have any instructions in relation to the matter but could say that the matter was "under active consideration" by the DPP.

At an out-of-hours sitting of the High Court on Friday, Mr Fitzgerald told Mr Justice Keane that Craig O'Donoghue of Killala Court, Knocknaheeney, Co Cork was the second witness who had failed to appear at the juvenile's trial. The court heard that the other witness had appeared before the High Court last Monday evening.

Mr Fitzgerald called Detective Garda Rory McGovern from Togher Garda Station in Cork to outline the background to the warrant that he executed on Mr O'Donoghue this evening.

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Det Gda McGovern gave evidence that he had served the witness order on Mr O'Donoghue on May 3, which required him to give evidence at the juvenile's trial last month.

The court heard that Mr O'Donoghue and another witness had booked a holiday on May 11 to travel from Ireland to London. "They travelled from Ireland on May 27 and from there to Ayia Napa in Cyprus," said the detective.

Det Gda McGovern said that efforts were initially made to follow up on the witness order on June 1, when Mr O'Donoghue was required to give evidence in the trial on the following day. However, it became apparent that he had left the jurisdiction and was not available to give evidence, he added.

The detective said he had executed the bench warrant at Dublin Airport this afternoon at 4.53pm and arrested Mr O'Donoghue on foot of the warrant.

Det Gda McGovern said he had cautioned Mr O'Donoghue but he made no reply. The officer said he handed the accused man a true copy of the bench warrant.

The witness confirmed to Mr Fitzgerald that his application was to remand Mr O'Donoghue in custody until July 12 as he will be required to isolate within the prison system for seven days.

"I anticipate that on July 12 he won't be able to come to court but can attend court electronically," said Mr Fitzgerald.

The alleged offence of contempt of court is punishable by imprisonment, fine or both.

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Farewell: The remains of Cameron Blair are carried from St Mary’s Church, Bandon. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Farewell: The remains of Cameron Blair are carried from St Mary’s Church, Bandon. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Farewell: The remains of Cameron Blair are carried from St Mary’s Church, Bandon. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

The judge remanded Mr O'Donoghue in custody until July 12 at 10.30am and granted legal aid to cover senior and junior counsel to represent him at the hearing on that date.

Brian Storan BL, for Mr O'Donoghue, said the defence was not pursuing an application for bail.

Before the State opened its case on May 28, the 16-year-old boy pleaded guilty to committing violent disorder with two other persons present together, using or threatening to use unlawful violence, and such conduct taken together would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at Bandon Road in Cork city to fear for his or another person's safety at the said place on the same occasion.

The jury was told that the events of the case related to "a tragic situation" where 20-year-old Cameron, a chemical engineering student at Cork Institute of technology (CIT), died at Cork University Hospital (CUH) last year after being stabbed in the neck. Another juvenile has already pleaded guilty to his murder.

Addressing the jury on June 16, Mr Justice Keane explained that he had been informed by Mr Fitzgerald that the prosecution against the juvenile for the production of the knife had been "discontinued". "That means that the present trial is at an end," he said.

Mr Justice Keane directed a probation report and remanded the juvenile on continuing bail until July 12.

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