DPP v McKevitt and Others
THE SPECIAL CRIMINAL COURT
Practice and procedure - Release of documents by third parties - Request not pursuant to order, rule or statutory provision - Documents deemed to be in possession of the Special Criminal Court - Trial of respondents concluded - Appeal procedure for all respondents not concluded - Request in nature to discovery procedure - Offences Against the State Act, 1939 sections 41, 43
Third parties who are Omagh Families sought the release of documents in the possession of the Special Criminal Court following the trials of the respondents. Among documents sought were the transcript of evidence and the books of evidence. The third parties had initiated a civil case against the respondents in Northern Ireland for damages arising from the Omagh bombing. While there was no procedural rule to ground the application the court said the application was in the nature to a discovery application and adjudicated it on that basis.
Held The court considered the provisions of sections 41 and 43 of the Offences against the State Act, 1939 and the procedures of the Special Criminal Court. The Act does not contemplate the involvement of the court in any civil proceedings. The court’s function is to hear and decided issues that before it and when that function has been completed it is functus officio relative to each case. To release the documents requested would go against the accepted practice direction of the court. Accordingly, the court ruled that they were unable to accede to the request by reason of lack of jurisdiction.
RULING of the Court delivered on the 7th day of February, 2005
This application is in the form of a request to release documents deemed by the applicants to be in the possession, power and control of the Special Criminal Court. It commenced as a request by way of letter to the Courts Service and to the registrar of the Special Criminal Court and has now taken the form of a request to the court itself. The only documents sought initially were those relating to the trial of Michael McKevitt, tried by this division of the Special Criminal Court. As things progressed it broadened to seek documents relating to the trial of Colm Murphy, Liam Campbell and Seamus Daly. The request was further expanded to include not only the transcript of the evidence in each trial but also the book of evidence in each case.
It is accepted that appeals were lodged in the cases of Colm Murphy, Liam Campbell and Michael McKevitt and that no appeal has been lodged in the case of Seamus Daly. The request is not pursuant to any rule or order or statutory provision. We feel there is no doubt however that this is in the nature of a request for discovery and disclosure of documents for the purposes of pursuing a civil claim for damages against the persons named arising from the bombing in Omagh. We, the court, are not parties to this civil claim.
Section 43 of the Offences Against the State Act, 1939, provides as follows:
(1) "A Special Criminal Court shall have jurisdiction to try and to convict or acquit any person lawfully brought before that court for trial under this Act and shall also have the following ancillary jurisdiction, that is to say;
(a) Jurisdiction to sentence every person convicted by that court of any offence to suffer the punishment provided by law in respect of that offence;
(b) Jurisdiction in view of or in addition to making any other order in respect of a person to require such person to enter into a recognisance before such Special Criminal Court or before justice of the District Court in such amount and with or without sureties as such Special Criminal Court shall direct to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for such period as the court shall specify;
(c) Jurisdiction to order the detention of and to detain in civil or military custody or to admit to bail in such amount and with or without sureties as that court shall direct, pending trial by that
court and during and after such a trial until conviction or acquittal any person sent forward, transferred or otherwise brought for trial before that court;
(d) Power to administer oaths to witnesses;
(e) Jurisdiction and power to punish in the same manner and...
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