DPP v Brian Meehan

JurisdictionIreland
CourtCourt of Criminal Appeal
JudgeKearns J.
Judgment Date24 July 2006
Neutral Citation[2006] IECCA 104
Date24 July 2006
Docket Number[C.C.A. No. 177 of 1999]

[2006] IECCA 104

THE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEAL

Kearns J.

Budd J.

de Valera J.

[177/99]
DPP v MEEHAN

BETWEEN

THE PEOPLE AT THE SUIT OF THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS
RESPONDENT

AND

BRIAN MEEHAN
APPLICANT

R v BASKERVILLE 1916 2 KB 663

CRIMINAL EVIDENCE ACT 1992 S5

DPP v MCCANN UNREP CARNEY 31.7.1996 (TRANSCRIPT UNAVAILABLE)

DPP v MURPHY 2005 2 IR 125

SAPPORO MARU (OWNERS) v STATUE OF LIBERTY (OWNERS) 1968 1 WLR 739 1968 2 ALL ER 195

R v WOOD 1982 76 CAR 23

R v SOUBT 91 CAR 186

R v COCHRANE 1993 CLR 48

R v COVENTRY JUSTICES EX PARTE BULLARD & ANOR 1992 95 CAR 175

MYERS v DPP 1965 AC 1001

CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACT 1965 (UK)

CIVIL EVIDENCE ACT 1965 (UK)

POLICE & CRIMINAL EVIDENCE ACT 1984 (UK)

DENTAL BOARD v O'CALLAGHAN 1969 IR 181

DPP v HESTER 1973 AC 296

CRIMINAL JUSTICE (EVIDENCE) ACT 1924

R v SHEEHAN 1826 JEBB CC 54

MCGRATH EVIDENCE 2005 141

DAVIES v DPP 1954 1 AER 507

DPP v KILBOURNE 1973 AC 729

DPP v BOARDMAN 1975 AC 421

CRIMINAL JUSTICE & PUBLIC ORDER ACT 1994 S32(1)

VETROVEC v THE QUEEN 1982 1 SCR 811

DAVIDSON & TIDD 1820 33 HOW ST TR 1338

JENKINS v THE QUEEN 2005 HCA 57

R v KEHLER 2004 1 SCR 328

AG, PEOPLE v LEVISON 1932 IR 158

DPP v MURPHY 2005 2 IR 125

MAY CRIMINAL EVIDENCE 2ED 330

DPP v GILLIGAN UNREP SUPREME 2005/20/3987

AG v O'SULLIVAN 1930 IR 552

CRIMINAL LAW (RAPE) (AMDT) ACT 1990 S7

CRIMINAL EVIDENCE ACT 1992 S28

DPP v REID 1993 2 IR 186

DPP, PEOPLE v MURPHY CCA EX-TEMP 3.11.1997 1999/9/2004

DPP v C 2001 3 IR 345

DPP v CRONIN UNREP SUPREME 3.3.2006 2006 IESC 9

CRIMINAL LAW:

Evidence

Accomplice - Corroboration - Safety of conviction procured by evidence of accomplice where evidence not adequately corroborated - Whether corroboration prerequisite to conviction where main evidence against accused was that of accomplice - Whether corroboration could depend upon defence put forward by accused - Whether court had discretion in dealing with issues of corroboration to decide what constituted corroboration - Whether telephone traffic amounted to corroborative evidence -Admissibility of evidence - Mobile telephone records - Whether evidence of telephone records could be led - Whether common law rules as to admissibility of documents in criminal proceedings abolished by statute - Whether recording produced mechanically without human intervention admissible in evidence - Whether identity of uses of mobile phones established from direct evidence given by witnesses - Dental Board v O'Callaghan [1969] IR 181 and People (DPP) v Murphy [2005] IECCA 52, [2005] 4 IR 504 applied - Vetrovec v The Queen [1982] 1 SCR 811; Rex v Baskerville [1916] 2 KB 658; People (DPP) v Gilligan [2005] IESC 78, [2006] 1 IR 107; R v Spilby (1990) 91 Cr App R 186 and Attorney General v Levison [1932] IR 158 considered - Myers v DPP [1965] AC 1001 distinguished - Criminal Evidence Act 1992 (No 12), s 5 - Appeal dismissed (177/1999 - CCA -24/7/2006) [2006] IECCA 104, [2006] 3 IR 468 People (DPP) v Meehan

The applicant, who was convicted of the murder of Veronica Gueran and further convicted of certain drugs and firearms offences appealed against the refusal of the Special Criminal Court (SCC ) to grant leave to appeal against his conviction and sentence on various grounds. The grounds of appeal were that (1) the principal witness linking the applicant to the murder was an accomplice, whose evidence was not adequately corroborated in accordance with the requirements of Irish law, (2) there was no adequate evidence to enable the SCC convict the applicant in respect of the firearms offences and (3) the telephone traffic records were not admissible as evidence on the basis that the information as to the subscriber particulars had been fed into the computer by human intervention and even if they were so admissible they did not amount to corroboration.

Held by the Court of Criminal Appeal (Kearns, Budd, de Valera JJ) in dismissing the appeal:

1. That the SCC ruled correctly on the admissibility of the telephone traffic records, as there was direct evidence available to prove the subscriber name and relevant number and the identity of the actual user of the particular phone and the generation of all other information was solely by the computer.

2. That the SCC was entitled to conclude and hold that the telephone traffic constituted corroborative evidence in respect of the evidence given by the accomplice.

3. That the SCC had sufficient evidence to convict the applicant in relation to the firearms offences.

Reporter: L.O'S.

1

Kearns J. on the 24th day of July, 2006

2

On the 29 th July, 1999, the applicant was convicted by the Special Criminal Court after a trial which commenced on the 2 nd June, 1999 and which continued for 31 days. On count 1, the applicant was convicted of the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin on the 26 th June, 1996. On counts 2-6, the applicant was convicted of the unlawful importation of a controlled drug on dates between the 1 st July, 1994 and the 6 th October, 1996. He was further convicted on counts 7-10 and on count 12 with possession of a controlled drug for the purpose of selling or otherwise supplying it to another. He was acquitted of charges of possession or control of firearms or ammunition with personal intention to endanger life. He was, however, convicted of a charge of possession or control of firearms or ammunition to enable others to endanger life. He was further convicted on counts 17 and 18 of the possession and control of firearms or ammunition in circumstances that he did not have them in his possession or under his control for a lawful purpose.

3

The court sentenced the applicant to a mandatory life sentence in respect of the conviction for murder. He was further sentenced in respect of the convictions for the drugs and firearms offences. The applicant now appeals to this Court against the refusal of the Special Criminal Court to grant leave to appeal against conviction and sentence on various grounds.

4

The delay in bringing this appeal on for hearing was undoubtedly connected with the various appeals brought by John Gilligan, the leader of the criminal group of which the applicant was a member, whose final appeal in respect of his convictions was rejected by the Supreme Court in a judgment delivered on the 23 rd November, 2005.

5

While extensive grounds of appeal were lodged in this matter, the appeal before this Court was narrowly focused. As argued, the grounds of appeal transpired to be:-

6

(a) The principal witness linking the applicant to the murder of Veronica Guerin, Russell Warren, was an accomplice whose evidence was not adequately corroborated in accordance with the requirements of Irish law.

7

(b) There was no adequate evidence to enable the Special Criminal Court convict the applicant in respect of the firearms offences.

8

(c) The telephone traffic records in relation to the mobile phone user or phones habitually used by John Gilligan, Russell Warren and the applicant on the day of the murder of Veronica Guerin were not admissible as evidence. Alternatively, if admissible, the same did not amount to corroboration in Irish law.

9

It is apparent that there is a considerable overlap between the first and third grounds of appeal, but, as was indicated by Patrick Gageby, senior counsel for the applicant, the outcome of this appeal turns essentially on the view of this Court as to the safety of a conviction procured mainly by the evidence of an accomplice in circumstances where it is submitted that the evidence of such an accomplice is not adequately corroborated in accordance with the requirements of Irish law.

The evidence of Russell Warren
10

Russell Warren gave evidence that he entered a Witness Security Programme in April, 1999. He had pleaded guilty to various drug related offences before the Circuit Court in November, 1997, in respect of which a sentence of five years was imposed on cach of 16 charges. A sum of £56,000 and stg£7,000, deemed to be the proceeds of drug trafficking, were also declared forfeit from him on that date.

11

Russell Warren gave evidence that his initial involvement in the criminal gang led by John Gilligan involved delivering contraband cigarettes from Belgium and Holland. He delivered these goods to the applicant's flat at Clifton Court on a monthly basis from mid-June 1995 to Christmas 1995. When the cigarette shipments ceased, his work became the collection of money due for drug deliveries both in Ireland and in Belgium, the counting and changing of money in those countries and other travel for the purpose of laundering same on behalf of John Gilligan. Most of the overseas trips were through Amsterdam Airport. He gave evidence that he collected monies from the applicant, from Peter Mitchell, Paul Ward and Patrick Holland, all members of John Gilligan's criminal gang. This money was from the sale in Ireland of illegally imported drugs. The money being brought out of the country could range from £100,000 to £250,000, though sometimes it would be more. These activities continued up to the time of his arrest in October, 1996.

12

Having identified the applicant in court, Russell Warren gave evidence that he and a friend called Paul Cradden stole a 500 cc motorbike in Dun Laoghaire from a Mr. Ian Keith in May, 1996. The bike was brought to a garage owned by Stephen McGrath at St. Enda's Road in Terenure and was kept there. This garage was accessible through McGrath's house. Russell Warren stated that he had intended selling the bike, but had it on his hands for a number of weeks during which time he met John Gilligan and spoke of having the bike in his possession. Gilligan told him he might need the bike and to "hang onto it". He recalled going down to the Terenure House car park by arrangement to meet Brian Meehan...

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