DPP v Meehan

JurisdictionIreland
CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
JudgeBirmingham J.
Judgment Date18 Apr 2016
Neutral Citation[2016] IECA 124
Docket Number[Appeal No. 190CPA/10]

[2016] IECA 124

THE COURT OF APPEAL

Birmingham J.

[Appeal No. 190CPA/10]

Birmingham J.

Mahon J.

Edwards J.

BETWEEN
THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS
RESPONDENT
-AND-
BRIAN MEEHAN
APPLICANT

Conviction ? Murder ? Newly discovered fact ? Applicant seeking to have his conviction set aside as a miscarriage of justice ? Whether evidence used in the subsequent trial of another individual in respect of the same offence was properly disclosed to the applicant?s legal team

Facts: The applicant, Mr Meehan, on?the 2nd June, 1999, stood trial in the Special Criminal Court charged with the murder of a Ms Guerin. On?the 26th June, 1996, she was murdered on the Naas Road when the car that she was driving was stopped at traffic lights. While stationary at the lights, a motorcycle pulled up alongside her vehicle. The pillion passenger discharged a number of shots into the car, fatally wounding her. After a 31?day trial, the applicant was convicted of murder along with other offences involving firearms and drugs. The case the prosecution made against him was that he was the driver of the motorcycle from which the shots were discharged. Sixteen and a half years after his conviction, and nineteen and a half years after the murder was committed, the applicant appealed to the Court of Appeal seeking to set his conviction aside as a miscarriage of justice pursuant to s. 2 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1993. The substantive question raised in the application was whether evidence used in the subsequent trial of another individual in respect of the same offence was properly disclosed to the applicant?s legal team and, if so, whether the applicant?s legal team failed to fully appreciate its significance such that it constituted new or newly discovered facts for the purposes of a s. 2 miscarriage of justice application.

Held by Birmingham J that the manner in which the application morphed from one based on alleged non?disclosure, to one that was critical of the lawyers who advised Mr Meehan at various stages was unsatisfactory. Birmingham J observed that when the applicant had to accept that there was disclosure, he retreated to a situation of saying that his lawyers at trial did not appreciate the significance of the material that was disclosed. Birmingham J held that there was no evidence to support that proposition. The Court also held that it was entirely clear that no new fact or newly discovered fact had been established; each and every fact was known at the time of the appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal and in most, if not all, of the cases long before that. Birmingham J also held that it could not be said that the significance of the facts were not appreciated during the trial or appeal proceedings; the fact that a motion was brought to admit additional evidence provided the clearest possible, and conclusive, evidence that the significance of the matters sought to be relied upon by the applicant were considered before the appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal. Birmingham J noted that in exceptional cases one is entitled to rely on the transcript of another trial, citing DPP v Paul Ward?(Unreported, Court of Criminal Appeal, 22nd March, 2002). Birmingham J held that this case was not exceptional; this was a case where the applicant said that the approach of the Gilligan trial court was to be preferred to the approach of the court that dealt with his case. However, in doing so, Birmingham J noted that he chose to ignore the remarks made by the Supreme Court in?Gilligan?on the issue of corroboration.

Birmingham J held that the evidence given by Ms Finnegan, Mr Hickey and Sergeant Kearney, which was said to be at the core of this application, disclosed no new or newly discovered fact. Furthermore, the Court was satisfied not only that all of the material pointed to by the applicant was properly disclosed to him and his legal team but also that its significance was fully appreciated by them, at the very latest by the time of his appeal against conviction to the Court of Criminal Appeal in 2003. Accordingly, the Court refused the application.

Application refused.

JUDGMENT of the Court delivered by Birmingham J. on the 18th day of April 2016
1

On 26th June, 1996, Ms. Veronica Guerin was murdered on the Naas Road, at a time when the car that she was driving was stopped at traffic lights. On that occasion, she was returning to Dublin from Naas District Court where she had dealt with a speeding summons. While stationary at the lights, a motorcycle pulled up alongside her vehicle. The pillion passenger discharged a number of shots into the car, fatally wounding Ms. Guerin.

2

On 2nd June, 1999, the applicant stood trial in the Special Criminal Court charged with the murder of Ms. Guerin. After a 31-day trial, he was convicted of murder along with other offences involving firearms and drugs. The case the prosecution made against him was that he was the driver of the motorcycle from which the shots were discharged. At trial, Mr. Meehan was represented by Mr. John McCrudden Q.C., Mr. Anthony Sammon S.C. and Mr. Michael O'Higgins, Barrister-at-Law instructed by Michael E. Hanahoe Solicitors.

3

Sixteen and a half years after his conviction, and nineteen and a half years after the murder was committed, the applicant now seeks pursuant to s. 2 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1993 to set his conviction aside as a miscarriage of justice. The substantive question raised in this application is whether evidence used in the subsequent trial of another individual in respect of the same offence was properly disclosed to the applicant's legal team and, if so, whether the applicant's legal team failed to fully appreciate its significance such that it constitutes new or newly discovered facts for the purposes of a s.2 miscarriage of justice application.

4

To put the current application in context, it is necessary to say something about the chronology of events that has unfolded.

The Chronology of Events
5

On 1st November, 1999, an appeal against conviction and sentence was lodged by the applicant.

6

On 15th March, 2001, one John Gilligan was acquitted of a murder charge that he had faced, arising from the events of the 26th June, 1996, on the Naas road, but was convicted of drugs offences. Mr. Gilligan was tried on those charges before a differently constituted Special Criminal Court. The prosecution case against Mr. Gilligan was not that he had been present and played any part at the murder scene on the Naas Road, in fact he had been in Amsterdam on the day of the murder, but rather that he was the gang leader who had ordered the shooting of Ms. Guerin. Both at the 1999 trial of the applicant and the 2001 trial of John Gilligan, one Russell Warren was a significant prosecution witness. Mr. Warren had been a member of the gang led by John Gilligan and, at the time of both trials, was a participant in the Witness Protection Programme.

7

By a motion dated 20th May, 2002, the applicant sought liberty to adduce fresh evidence at his appeal, namely the transcripts from the trial of John Gilligan and also the transcripts of the trial of Paul Ward and to expand the grounds of appeal. Mr. Ward had also been convicted by a division of the Special Criminal Court ( The People (DPP) v. Paul Ward (Unreported, Special Criminal Court, 27th November, 1998)), once again differently constituted to that of the court of trial in the present case, but that conviction was overturned on appeal ( The People (DPP) v. Paul Ward (Unreported, Court of Criminal Appeal, 22nd March, 2002)).

8

On 7th February, 2003, written submissions on behalf of the applicant were filed. Of note is that these written submissions anticipated, to a very significant extent, the arguments that have been canvassed in the course of the current application. In particular, the submissions contain significant references to aspects of the evidence that was given at the Gilligan trial.

9

On 23rd May, 2003, written submissions on behalf of the DPP were filed.

10

On 3rd February, 2004, there was an application on behalf of Mr. Meehan to vacate the hearing date of 23rd March, 2004, which had been assigned to the appeal on the basis that a certificate pursuant to s. 29 of the Courts of Justice Act 1924 had issued in the Gilligan case. Mr. Meehan's appeal was adjourned generally until after the conclusion of this s. 29 application.

11

On 23rd November, 2005, the Supreme Court delivered judgment in the case of The People (DPP) v. Gilligan [2006] 1 I.R. 107, dismissing the appeal against conviction. Of note is that the Supreme Court, per Denham J., indicated that it was not in agreement with the approach taken by the court of trial with regards to the issue of corroboration. In effect, the Supreme Court judgment appears to doubt the correctness of the basis on which Mr. Gilligan was acquitted of the murder charge.

12

On 27th ? 28th June, 2006, the Court of Criminal Appeal heard Mr. Meehan's appeal. At the outset, the application to adduce the Gilligan and Ward transcripts by way of additional evidence and expand the grounds of appeal was withdrawn.

13

On 24th July, 2006, the Court of Criminal Appeal delivered judgment on Mr. Meehan's appeal against conviction. The Court referred at p. 472 of the reported judgment, which is to be found at The People (DPP) v. Meehan [2006] 3 I.R. 468, to the fact that the delay in bringing on the appeal was undoubtedly connected with the various appeals brought by John Gilligan, the leader of the criminal gang of which Mr. Meehan was a member. On the hearing of the appeal, Mr. Meehan was represented by Mr. Patrick Gageby S.C., Mr. Conor Devalley S.C. (with them, Mr. Cian Ferriter, Barrister-at-Law) instructed by John J. Rice & Co. Solicitors of Belfast. Following the...

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